Happy Independence Day from Texas!

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Wishing everyone a very Happy Independence Day!

Fourth of July Fruit Salad | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Whether you are traveling to see family, are joining in a Fourth of July party…

Fourth of July Parade | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Fourth of July Parade | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

…or participating in the reading of the Declaration of Independence, I wish you all a good time.

Fourth of July Parade | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Fourth of July Parade | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Fourth of July Parade | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

The few pictures posted in this post were taken during a Fourth of July party I attended two years ago in a small community in Central Texas.

And this is part of my menu for today:

Fourth of July Fruit Salad | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Wishing you all a Happy Fourth of July!

Howdy From Texas!

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I am back in Austin, Texas – Yeah! I moved back from Washington, DC in the first days of May and started my new job early in May. Life is good. I am also eager to go back to writing and blogging now that I have settled back home.

The blog turned 4 years last May 6. Granted, posting has been a bit sporadic a lot of times, but it also means that I’ve now been in the U.S. for almost 5 years. I kept myself busy, and I loved it!

I’ll go back to my time in the Washington, DC area, but here are just a few of the things I’ve seen since I’ve been back in Austin.

You guessed it, gorgeous sunsets and sunrises:

Sunrise Over Lake Travis | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Sunrise Over Lake Travis

Sunset Over the Hill Country | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Sunset Over the Hill Country

Wildflowers:

Wildflower Field, Hill Country | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Wildflowers, Hill Country | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Longhorns:

Longhorn | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Longhorn | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Longhorn | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

New neighbors:

Deers | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Austin:

Texas State Capitol | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

What about you? What exciting things have you seen or done this spring so far?

Random DC: Bird Feeder in Georgetown

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The feeder is just about 10 feet away from the cat cafe in Georgetown, providing fascinating Bird TV programming for the kitties inside the cafe!

Bird Feeder in the streets of Georgetown, Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Bird Feeder in the streets of Georgetown, Washington, DC – March 2016

Bird Feeder in the streets of Georgetown, Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Cherry Blossoms in Washington, DC

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Cherry Blossom Festival - Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

This is one of the peaks of the past nine months I’ve spent in Washington, DC. I was eager to see the famous cherry blossoms around the tidal basin, near the Jefferson Memorial. They have reached peak bloom this past weekend, and that was absolutely lovely.

Cherry Blossoms near the Jefferson Memorial - Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Cherry Blossoms and the Washington Monument - Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Cherry Blossom Festival - Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

So yes, my promise to write my first post in 2016 from Texas is now gone. The back and forth between Austin and DC has stopped until I go back to Austin for good, in a few weeks. More on this in a later post.

For now, let’s go back to spring in Washington, DC.

Cherry Blossoms - Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

The Cherry Blossom Festival originates from a gift of 2,000 cherry trees that the city of Tokyo made to Washington, DC in 1912. On March 27, 1912, First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Japanese Viscountess Iwa Chinda, the wife of Sutemi Chinda, Japan’s newly appointed ambassador to the United States, planted the first two trees. In 1965, First Lady Lady Bird Johnson accepted an additional 3,800 trees. The first festival took place in 1927, was expanded to three days in 1934, and to two weeks in 1994.

Cherry Blossom Festival - Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Cherry Blossoms - Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

The U.S. reciprocated the gifts, sending Japan flowering dogwood trees in 1915. In 1981, DC arborists sent cuttings from the newly American cherry trees following the destruction of Japanese trees by a flood in Japan.

The cherry blossoms are of course especially impressive around the Tidal Basin, but you can find many in the entire region. According to some figures, more than 1,000 cherry trees were planted in recent years in the region.

Cherry Blossom Festival - Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Cherry Blossoms - Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Jefferson Memorial, Cherry Blossoms - Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Horticulturists from the National Park Service monitor different stages of bud development to be able to give an estimate of when the cherry blossoms will reach peak bloom. But of course, this is not an easy job. This year, the initial forecast was for early April, but was adjusted a few weeks ago and moved forward after warmer than usual weather.

Cherry Blossoms - Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Cherry Blossom Festival - Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Cherry Blossom Festival - Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

In conclusion, the region is incredibly beautiful when spring comes, and well worth a visit.

As you can see from the pictures, there were a lot of people (I read that 1.5 million people come to see the cherry blossoms each year), and the weather was not sunny, which was challenging to come up with good photographs. Hopefully though, they will still give you an idea of the beauty of the event.

Source of information & additional links:
National Cherry Blossom Festival
This Day in History: March 27, 1912 – Japanese cherry trees planted along the Potomac
Cherry Blossom Watch
Cherry Blossoms in 360°

I Will See You Next Year in Texas

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I had planned to write a more elaborate post to end the year, but time is simply missing, so instead of rushing something, I will write what I wanted to write next year now… which actually is just in a couple of days (literally).

I’m flying back to Texas to start the New Year there :-)

Southwest Flight | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

I wish you all a very festive New Year’s Eve and an excellent New Year 2016, filled with happiness, health, and what your heart desires!

See you next year!

Happy New Year 2016 | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

National Christmas Tree in Washington, DC

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U.S. Department of Commerce - Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

U.S. Department of Commerce in Washington, DC – December 2015

I’ll spend Christmas in Washington, DC this year, away from home. I have seen plenty of gorgeously – or outrageously – decorated houses in north Virginia, but of course the big attraction is the National Christmas Tree near the White House.

National Christmas Tree 2015 - Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Although nice, I must say that the tree paled in comparison to the Rockefeller Center tree and its decorations in NYC, or even the decorations I could see in Texas (I’m pretty sure Austin’s Capitol’s Christmas tree last year was at least the same size).

National Christmas Tree 2015 and White House - Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Here are some pictures and a little bit of history behind the tradition.

Ninety-two years ago, the Ellipse, south of the White House, received its first Christmas tree.

In 1923, President Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President of the United States, lighted the National Christmas Tree on Christmas Eve in front of 6,000 visitors. The 48-foot fir tree was decorated with 2,500 red, white, and green electric bulbs.

Every year after that, in times of peace and war, Washington, DC would repeat this tradition.

This year, the National Christmas Tree is decorated in honor of the National Park Service Centennial, in sparkling gold and silvery white, the colors used for milestone celebrations.

National Christmas Tree 2015 - Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

National Christmas Tree 2015, with the Washington Monument in the background - Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

For the 7th year in a row, it is illuminated by LED lights. There are about 600 LED net lights and icicle lights for a combined 6,000 watts. The lighting has been provided by General Electric for 53 years.

National Christmas Tree 2015 - Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

The lighting ceremony took place on December 3rd this year, and is available online if you are interested.

There were also model electric trains all around the tree.

Model Electric Trains around the National Christmas Tree 2015 - Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Model Electric Trains around the National Christmas Tree 2015 - Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

The National Christmas Tree is surrounded by smaller Christmas trees decorated with ornaments made by “ordinary Americans, representing every U.S. state, territory and the District of Columbia.”

Christmas Trees and Washington Monument - Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Here is the Christmas tree for New York, and an ornament.

Christmas tree decorated with ornaments from New York - Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Ornament from New York - Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

And here is the Christmas tree, along with ornaments, for Texas.

Christmas tree decorated with ornaments from Texas - Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Ornaments from Texas - Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Ornament from Texas - Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Not too far, there was also a Nativity scene, and of course, the White House.

Nativity Scene near the National Christmas Tree - Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

White House - Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

The trees and decorations were nice but I was a bit disappointed. But I guess after experiencing this and this, I’m a little demanding ;-)

Bookstores of Virginia: Hole in the Wall

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Every time the occasion presents itself to visit a new bookstore, I never miss it. Used bookstores are especially tempting, because yes, books are cheaper, but also because it’s a good way to find old books you’ve never heard of or that you couldn’t find elsewhere.

Today, I’d like to showcase a used bookstore in Virginia that I visited recently, Hole in the Wall.

Hole in the Wall Books
905 West Broad Street
Falls Church, Virginia 22046

Hole in the Wall Books - Falls Church, VA | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

The bookstore is a book lover’s dream (at least it was to me!): books are piling up everywhere in this little store. It feels like a treasure quest looking at all the books. From history, to sci-fi, to mystery, comics, business-related, chances are you’ll find a book or two that you’ll be interested in (of course I did find a couple of books!).

There’s parking space behind the store that you can access via the adjacent S Spring St.

Memories of Christmas in the United States

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This will be my fifth Christmas in the United States, as a permanent resident. I spent two of them in New York, and two of them in Austin.

Before I can post some pictures of the fifth one, which will be in Washington, DC, here are some memories from the previous ones in the U.S.

In New York in 2012…

Advent Calendar – December 24th, 2012

In Austin, TX in 2013…

Christmas Trees Galore Along Loop 360

At Zilker Park

In Virginia in 2014…

At the Jefferson hotel in Richmond

In Alexandria, for the Scottish Christmas Walk

In Texas in 2014…

Johnson City’s Christmas Lights

Feel free to click on the links for more pictures. So many beautiful memories!