International Spy Museum & Surprise Scotcheroos

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This past Tuesday I took the train to DC to visit one of my favorite friends from college who was home from Louisville. My friend E is a kindred spirit. We always pick up exactly where we left off and despite time and distance are always on the same page. After a yummy lunch at Founding Farmers, E suggested a visit to the International Spy Museum. Given recent current events and my desire to visit the museum since it opened in 2002, it felt like the perfect way to spend a rainy DC afternoon.

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Since there are more spies in Washington, DC than anywhere else on earth, it’s fitting that the city has the only public museum in the US dedicated to the field of espionage. One of the reasons for the high number may be that the museum trains each visitor!

The first stop  is a room filled with cover identities. Each visitor has to select and memorize an identity, which he/she is expected to recall at anytime.

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Next up, it’s the briefing room where visitors learn about the real world of spying and the many different motivations for being a spy.

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E and I weren’t motivated by patriotism, money, blackmail, or ego, just fun! So we entered the School for Spies ready to try anything and everything. Lucky for us it was filled with interactive exhibits intended to help us master four basic skills: observing a scene accurately, blending in with the crowd, assessing risks, and responding to threats swiftly and coolly.

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It was also our first exposure to some of the 600+ international espionage artifacts in the museum. We were amazed by how many common things could be turned into spy equipment — purses, lipstick, toys and, yes, even suitcases.

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The suitcase radio was issued by the Polish SOE in the early 1940s for secret communication between Poland and England using Morse Code. Sadly, there were no sweet-related artifacts. ;)

Spying is the second oldest profession, and the museum dedicates galleries to tracing the history of espionage beginning in Biblical times. For example, we learned that while now regarded as assassins, Ninjas were actually professional spies in 12th century Japan.  Coming from the Japanese word that means “the art of the shadow”, Ninjas were trained to enter a place undetected, gather information, undermine the enemy, and strike when least expected.

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The museum experience concluded at present day with an exhibit on contemporary intelligence challenges like cyber terrorism and included a lighter special exhibit celebrating 50 years of James Bond villains.

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Neither E nor I have ever seen a Bond film (seriously!), but we both love to bake and did some brainstorming about what sweet treat would accompany this post.

I decided to sneak some surprises into and under the cover of the popular recipe for Chocolate Scotcheroos.  You won’t need to break a code to follow this simple recipe

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and, while the first thing they tell you upon entering the Spy Museum is to trust no one, you can trust me that these Surprise Scotcheroos are oozy, gooey, sweet, and delicious!

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Click Here to Print This Recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 10 oz. marshmallows
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 8 cups Rice Krispies cereal
  • 12 Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels

Instructions:

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  • In a large pot over medium heat, cook corn syrup and sugar, stirring frequently, until sugar dissolves and mixture begins to boil.
  • Reduce heat to low; stir in marshmallows. When marshmallows are melted, remove from heat and stir in peanut butter.

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  • Add Rice Krispies and stir until well coated.
  • Press half the mixture into a 13x9x2 pan coated with cooking spray.
  • Add Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and cover with remaining mixture. Set aside.

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  • In a small saucepan, melt chocolate and butterscotch chips over low heat. Spread evenly over cereal mixture. Let stand until firm.

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DISTANCE TRAVELED FROM PHILADELPHIA TO WASHINGTON, DC: 136 miles

Newseum & Marble Pound Cake

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Because Washington, DC is less than two hours from Philadelphia by train, too often my trips to the District are all work and no play. Happily, last Saturday, I had a few free hours to visit the Newseum, which I’d wanted to experience since it opened in April of 2008.

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With 15 theaters and 15 galleries, the Newseum highlights news and journalism, spanning time and geography, in an interactive way. On the concourse level, for example, visitors can see and touch a piece of the Berlin Wall in the largest display of sections of the Wall outside of Germany.

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A few steps and decades through time later, visitors to the museum (until early January 2014) can see the role of a personal photographer in shaping the image of a politician — in this case through the  camera lens of  Jacques Lowe and the public and private moments he captured of John F. Kennedy to create the idea of Camelot.

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There are two other displays on JFK at the museum, including a video wall with highlights from his presidency and an exhibit that chronicles the unprecedented media coverage following his assassination. The exhibit offers a place for visitors to share where they were when they heard JFK was shot.

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I was struck by one particular note that read, “I was not born but still wonder how different life would be if JFK lived.”

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But the museum covers more than just the early 1960s. The FBI exhibit features artifacts from famous cases of the past century, including the Unabomber’s cabin

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and other items from terrorist attacks like the shoes of the shoe bomber. But, for someone of my generation, nowhere is the presentation of news related to terrorism more poignant than the 9/11 Gallery.

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The Gallery centers around a communications antenna from the World Trade Center and highlights the challenges journalists faced in reporting the story.

Remarkably, on the day we visited the Newseum, the September 11th attacks were also part of “Today’s Front Pages” on Level 6, as the spire had just been placed atop One World Trade Center.

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“Today’s Front Pages” displays up to 80 front pages from around the world, including all 50 states and Washington, DC. Each morning, the pages are transmitted electronically to the Newseum, enlarged, and printed for presentation.

Our time at the Newseum, whether spent on exhibits related to Civil Rights, Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs, or new media, was fascinating. But nothing struck me more than the World Press Freedom Map on Level 3.

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The map demonstrates how press freedom varies across the world as determined by Freedom House. I was stunned to see that the vast majority of people live in countries with media that is partly free (colored in yellow) or not free (colored in red).

The Newseum celebrates the First Amendment, especially Freedom of the Press and Freedom of Speech, and as I walked through the doors to the Greenspun Terrace,

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six stories above Pennsylvania Avenue, the stunning view of the Capitol Building

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made me even more grateful to live in a country colored green on the World Press Freedom Map.

Spending time at the Newseum reminded me that regardless of who is reporting on current events

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or what form social commentary takes,

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the news is definitely NOT black or white…like this Marble Pound Cake! (Adapted from food.com.)

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Click Here to Print This Recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons brewed coffee
  • Confectioners’ sugar for dusting, optional

Instructions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Butter a loaf pan; line the bottom of pan with parchment paper. Butter the paper.
  • Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium mixing bowl; set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, approximately 3 minutes. Add eggs and almond extract; beat until creamy. Add the dry ingredients until just combined. Add heavy cream and process until smooth.

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  • Pour half of the batter into a separate bowl. Add cocoa, vanilla extract, coffee and blend until smooth.

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  • Scoop batters into prepared pan, ½ cup at a time, alternating plain and chocolate. Smooth and swirl with a knife.
  • Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Drop temperature to 325 degrees and bake for another 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven to cool. Invert the cooled cake onto a plate, remove the parchment paper, and invert again to serve. Dust with confectioners’ sugar.

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DISTANCE TRAVELED FROM PHILADELPHIA TO WASHINGTON, DC: 136 miles

Washington, DC & Red and Blue Velvet Cookies

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All eyes are on Washington, DC this weekend with President Obama being sworn into office for his second term today and the public ceremony and celebrations of this 57th Presidential inauguration tomorrow.

Crowds of people will surround the Capitol Building, monuments, and the President’s house. My favorite time to visit and photograph these sights is the evening. The White House just seems whiter against the night sky,
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and the view of the Washington Monument from the grounds seems even more magical.IMG_3924

Soon, our gaze will shift to the West Wing to see who’s coming and going, and how our elected officials will govern over the next four years. IMG_3927If you’re feeling patriotic, try a batch of these Red and Blue Velvet Cookies! I loved this recipe from Cooking Classy and tweaked it to get the cookies just the right color and chocolatey taste.

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Click Here to Print This Recipe.

Yield: 3 1/2 dozen cookies, per color

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 7 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable shortening, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1 egg yolk, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 ounce royal icing color, red and/or blue
  • 1 1/3 cups white chocolate chips, divided

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter cookie sheets.
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

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  • In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, mix butter, shortening, and sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy (about 4 minutes). Add egg and egg yolk; mix until combined. Add vinegar, vanilla, and royal icing color and mix until well blended. Add dry ingredients in two parts; mix until just combined.
  • Using a rubber spatula, fold in 1/2 cup and 1/3 cup white chocolate chips.

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  • Form rounded balls of dough (using 1 to 1/2 tablespoons dough); place on buttered cookie sheets.
  • Gently press additional white chocolate chips on top of each cookie (be careful not to flatten the cookie).

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  • Bake 8-9 minutes. Cool for 3-5 minutes on cookie sheet and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Note: You can use traditional food coloring for these colors, but they may not be as vibrant. One ounce of royal icing color is approximately the equivalent of two tablespoons of food coloring.

DISTANCE TRAVELED FROM PHILADELPHIA TO WASHINGTON, DC: 136 miles

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