April: Part 1 - Birthday in DC

April has always been birthday month. My birthday is right at the beginning of April, just as the weather is starting to thaw out from a long Pennsylvania winter, and the song birds start to build their nests, and the buds are coming out on the trees.

Well, that's the ideal April scenario, anyhow. Truthfully, when I lived in PA, it was usually rainy on my birthday. And until I moved to Grand Cayman, I was always in the depths of audit despair working on a client with a 3/31 year-end on my special day. I was lucky if I saw the outside of a building at all.

So I usually made the client sing happy birthday to me and eat dessert in my honor. [Lemons? Lemonade.]

Due to the former professional restrictions during birthday month, I had this unfulfilled dream of experiencing the world-famous National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C. Each year, thousands of visitors flood D.C.'s Tidal Basin area to enjoy the trees' short-lived peak bloom that transforms the national monuments and the city in general into a powder-pink puff of spring. For a few brief days, the city looks like it's wearing a pink tutu - one of my favorite things in life.

This year, my birthday fell right before Easter - a four-day public holiday in Cayman, which coincidentally fell on the average date range that these cherry blossoms are in full bloom. The stars seemed to be aligning, and when I identified this excellent situation back around Christmas, I started to get the wheels in motion for a birthday trip to D.C. (It's never too early to start planning birthday month.)

We arrived the night before my birthday, and so the next day, Nate let this birthday girl call the shots. I reacted accordingly and had us up and in an Uber before dawn. I wanted to see golden hour at the Tidal Basin. 

We'd made it! The date was exact, the time was ideal, the weather was cool and springlike...but the blossoms?

A little shy, I must say.

Nate called it the Cherry Bud Festival.

It seems that the bitter winter weather had hung around too long and slowed down the peak bloom timeline. Nate tried to move things along with hot air, but to no avail.

My dreams of the cherry blossoms remained unfulfilled, but I still needed a photo with the trees.

Sunrise against the D.C. skyline made our early wakeup worth it.

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to photographer David Coleman and his website Have Camera Will Travel. His incredible annual photographic documentation of the progression of the cherry blossoms is breathtaking and practically has me pre-booking flights for next year. His blog contains a ton of great tips on how to make the most of the cherry blossom festival, including where to find some early-blooming trees, which led Nate and I straight to these:

David was right - there were a few blossoms to be found near the D.C. World War I Memorial. If he hadn't given detailed instructions, we wouldn't have ever found them.

In retrospect, we were about a week too early for the 2015 peak bloom.

A more accurate way to state this: The cherry blossoms were a week late.

Still, being up and about before the sun and all the tourists had its perks. We walked the length of the National Mall without running into a soul.

How often do you get photos of the monuments without 100 other people in your frame?

And Nate had an uninterrupted view when saluting the National World War II Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial.

Cherry blossoms or not, D.C. treated me right on my birthday.

I don't have room in this post to go into detail, but based on recommendations from Michael and Rachel, our D.C.-turned-Cayman friends, we enjoyed some pretty delicious meals while in the city. Next time you're in the nation's capital, do yourself a favor and visit Founding Farmers, Union Market, and Iron Gate

Oh. And Shake Shack. (Twice.)

Hip, hip, hooray for delicious things waiting for me in the room! Thanks Ritz-Carlton!

Later that weekend, we had the chance to visit with Brad & Alyssa - friends from Cayman who have moved back to the U.S., had a baby, and are pregnant with their second! I can't believe how much time has passed. It was a treat for us to finally hang with Baby E - one of the most pleasant kids under the age of two you'll ever meet.

He's just as smart as he looks!

Even Nate got involved, which is always the sign of an excellent kid.

These three make a wonderful young family, and it's heartwarming to see them thriving in the greater D.C. area!

Speaking of young families, we spent Easter Sunday with childhood friends who have expanded their families in the past six or so years. These three were running around and terrorizing their neighborhoods about twenty years ago, and there are now six offspring following in their footsteps!

Four of those kids belong to this mama - a living superhero, if there ever was one.

Not only does her household consist of six humans and one dog, but she also hosted eight additional people for a stunning homemade Easter Sunday brunch!

Underneath this gorgeous spread is a handmade DIY farmhouse table.
Apparently Jon is no one-trick pony!

It took just three of my amazing childhood friends to create this colorful array of mouth-watering food. We are so spoiled.

The most darling.

After brunch the parents conducted a big Easter egg hunt for the kids. I spent most of my time watching from the deck - the little ones wandering around, trying to figure out the point of the whole thing while the big ones raced up trees and down slides to gather as many brightly-colored eggs as possible.

Of all the fun things we packed into my birthday weekend - cherry buds/blossoms, national monuments, shopping, museums, restaurants, and the National Archives (which I cannot recommend enough, by the way), spending time with lifelong friends brought us the most joy. 

   photo credit: B&A

We may be separated by bodies of water and a whole bunch of miles, but the distance doesn't seem so great when I remember that only a couple flights and several hours are all that's in the way of hugging these precious people again. This has been the greatest outcome of our nearly five-year Cayman adventure: Building relationships that withstand the tests of time and distance. These people are part of our expanded definition of "family", and spending time with them on my birthday seems like the most natural thing in the world.


In the next April post, I'll share some of the birthday limelight with other April babies, and also share some photos relating to a topic that I haven't brought up in a while: Couchsurfing. Stay tuned!


  1. Hello Jennifer and Nate. You don't know us, but we're about to be on House Hunters International too... IN CAYMAN! Yes, it's true. We just received confirmation that we'll be shooting in July. We just closed escrow on our condo at Turtle Cove in Snug Harbour. Anyway, we'd love to get your input on what to expect and just say hi. I've followed your blog for a while now, having found it linked from the Kruithofs' blog. Anyway, I just thought I'd introduce ourselves and see if you can offer any sage advice. You can email us at daxwagner@gmail.com Take care! -Dax & Lili Wagner