Nashville, ya’ll. Nashville!!!

Last week was spring break here in New England but the weather felt more like winter.  Desperate for some sun and above freezing temps, the kiddies and I booked a last minute trip to the warmest place I could find for the cheapest plane ticket. That place happened to be Nashville. When you don’t plan ahead your options are limited, but that’s ok. My daughter loves country music, my son loves rock music and I love all music. So Music City seemed a logical choice anyway.

Given that lately it’s become a hotspot for bachelorette parties, girls weekends, boys weekends and excessive drinking no-matter-who-you-are weekends, Nashville is not your typical family destination spot, but have no fear. Even the under 21 crowd can have lots of fun.  Here’s how we spent our time:

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It was nice to start our trip at Bicentennial Park because it’s pretty and there’s a great view of the city.  Also, there’s a farmers market right next door. We ate lunch there and everyone was happy.
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The dogwoods and cherry blossoms were in full bloom and this made my heart sing because I am starved for spring. Starved, I say.
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Another great (and green!!!) spot to spend some time is on the river bank. We headed there later that day. That’s the Batman building back there. I think they call it the Batman building because it looks like Batman.
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The Pedestrian Bridge over the river gives you a good view of the city, plus you might get to hear some music, see some cute dogs or high five a runner.
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Here’s the view from the bridge. Rock on.
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Goo Goos are goooood. You can pick some up after you’ve walked back and forth over the bridge to balance out the calories you burned.
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The Ryman Auditorium is an easy walk from the river. It’s definitely worth a visit. Good step hangs too.
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After you’ve spent a bit of time downtown, head to the Parthenon.  It’s in Centennial Park (which is not to be confused with Bicentennial Park mentioned earlier).  Why are the parks so similarly named? I don’t know, but once you get that straight, feel free to wander and enjoy. It’s lovely!
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Hangin around is an art.
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Nashville’s got lovely outdoor spaces but it’s also is a fantastic shopping destination. My daughter was delighted by this. My son, not so much.
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When in Nashville, you must purchase Nash merch. Or at least try it on.
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Also, if you’re in the market for a guitar, you’re in luck. I’m sure you could buy one in your hometown, but it’s way cooler to buy it in Nashville.
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Then you can stay and be inspired by the live music so that when you take your new guitar home you practice a lot. This is Two Old Hippies in the Gulch. If you’re there- go!!!
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After you’ve shopped a bit, go find some murals. It’s not hard, I promise.
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Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to take more pics in front of murals than we did.
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But be warned, you will probably fail.
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Fail miserably.
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The kids even took one of me (after I took like 300 of them).
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Mural posing might work up a big appetite. If so, turn left for Peg Leg Porker. I tend to lean left as a rule, but even if you don’t: this BBQ is worth it.  We met my parents’ friends here and they live in Nashville, so they know. And now, we know too. Eat at Peg Leg.
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When you wake up the next day with a bbq hangover, treat yourself to something great at Caviar and Bananas. My son opted for a breakfast burrito, but as the name implies, they also have bananas for those of us who need a bit longer to recover.
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I totally loved this space. For me, everything tastes better when the aesthetic rocks.
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I mean, this floor.
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And, honestly isn’t it always yay for wine?
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After you’re fully recharged definitely head over to the Musicians Hall of Fame. So much fun for all!
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The kids found the old school equipment mind-boggling.
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And the Grammy exhibit was like visiting old friends.
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But the absolute best was the fact that you can actually play around with some instruments.
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And dream the dream.
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and more…
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After lunch you can sneak in a bit more shopping. We headed to Hillsboro Village where there were lots of options.
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Much to the chagrin of my son. Have book, will travel though… so it’s all good.
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Nobody would ever say this…
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Ah lunchtime! Luckily, Hillsboro Village is home to the Grilled Cheeserie.
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My boy once declared himself half-man, half-cheese. Needless to say, he was very happy here.
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After lunch, guess what? You can pose in front of more murals! It’s doubly fun when you meet up with hometown friends who also happen to be visiting Nashville.
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We met them in 12th South, which is where Draper James is. You know who owns this right?
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Rght! Only Reese Witherspoon would own a perfectly southern store that serves up sweet tea while you shop. Obviously.
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If you love paper goods as much as I do, you will appreciate this vignette at Whites.
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And if you love flowers AND Volkswagens as much as I do, you will be delighted with Amelia’s truck! This for me is goals. Gonna work on this.
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Except, this kind of spoke to me too…
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Also, this place: Emerson Grace. I mean c’mon, ya’ll. Could it be any lovelier? I wanted everything, even that hat which I would absolutely never wear.
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This stop made him happy. He didn’t even open his book.
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Don’t we all agree?
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Let’s just make music and dance.
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Another fantastic shop. Lucky for me this place was closed because otherwise could have been dangerous. I can resist clothes and shoes and stuff but I’m a sucker for vintage home goods.
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Aaaaand, another mural, for crying out loud. I told you there were a lot.
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Save time to check out Pinewood Social. It’s not too far from 12th South. Though, I found if you have a car everything is easier to get to because nothing is really that close. I’m a big walker, but with limited time that’s not really an option in Nashville. We spent a small fortune on Ubers.
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It was a little chilly so we didn’t spend much time out on their patio, but we did play a quick game of Bocce.
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And contemplated a quick relax in the crisp air, but nah…
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Instead, we headed inside which is the real draw. But we learned that poor planning leaves you in the cold sometimes. If you want to bowl here you have to call a month ahead of time! A month! I didn’t even know we were going to be in Nashville a month ago.
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For dinner, we headed to Nada for tacos. Nada means “nothing” in Spanish and I’m not sure it’s a great name for a Mexican restaurant, but it was good. And they had cachaca, which ironically I’d just learned about a few days earlier. Cachaca is a Brazillian liquor- it’s not tequila, or rum, or anything else other than cachaca. I didn’t have that drink though because I’d learned firsthand how potent it was, and I was adulting. So.
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Yep, we went back the next morning. The aesthetic and all…
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And then we went to the Frist Center for Visual Arts to see Nick Cave’s exhibit.
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These “soundsuits” were totally amazing.
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and this was trippy.
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And this was awesome.
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And then we tried to create our own masterpiece.
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Ah yes, Broadway. Were you wondering when we’d make it down that way? 11:00 am and the mayhem and debauchery had already started. Much as I love mayhem and debauchery, I couldn’t in good conscious hang out anywhere down there with my kids who think I’m the pillar of decorum (ah hem).
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But we did check out a few boot shops. Because cowboy boots are cool.
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Also, there’s a candy store. Which obviously we had to check out.
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We really, really, really wanted to hear live music but it just didn’t feel right.
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Until we found the FGL House. Now, this is how we roll! It was kid friendly with live music, AND it had a great vibe. Also, my daughter LOVES Florida Georgia Line (the band) so even though it was kind of kitschy it was kind of cool. Anything that makes a 14 year old excited is kind of cool.
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These guys were good, even though they mostly played covers.
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You can’t visit Nashville and not go to a thrift shop. We loved this one (Smack)!
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What’s not to love about this?
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And then later we went to hear live original music, which was amazing (thank you Maybe April, Stevie Woodward, and Jason Duke). This is the place to go if you really want to hear good music away from the party scene.  It’s the Listening Room and it’s kid-friendly until 10:00 pm. The only drawback is the food is terrible but if you go here for the food, you are definitely doing it wrong.

And, well that pretty much sums up our little trip to Nashville. We did do some other stuff- like walk around Vanderbilt University (which was beautiful), swim in the pool (which was freezing), and visit some bookstores and music shops (which were really cool). But the best thing we did was just BE together. Away from the distractions and obligations of everyday life, we could block out all the noise and actually focus on each other. And that was beautiful. I felt closer to them than I have in eons, and I know they felt the same about me, and about each other. This last pic I’m going to share is my favorite. I didn’t ask them to pose. I didn’t orchestrate it. It just happened. And for me, it says it all.

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What lifts YOU?

Everything, everything we hope we can be…

amman1Sometimes a simple little Internet search will unearth something totally unexpected and completely wonderful.  Motivated by the fact that it’s Women’s History Month and by all the stories I’ve been reading about strong women, I decided I wanted to write a piece about my maternal grandmother who, though not famous, was a pretty amazing and inspiring woman herself. But I have a terrible memory and little capacity for retaining actual facts, so I knew I’d need help if I was going to do her story justice and get all the little details right. So, I turned to my two most trustworthy sources of information: my twin sister (who has a fantastic memory and a great capacity for retaining actual facts) and Google (you all know Google, right?)

My sister was a wealth of information as usual, as were my mom’s cousins whom I also contacted for the backstory, but I was thrilled to find out something completely amazing all on my own. Simply by googling her name (that interweb sure is great!!), I found an art auction site describing the recent sale of one of her paintings! This is really fantastic because while my grandmother was an influential and integral part of her local artist community, she was by no means a renowned artist. It didn’t sell for much, but the fact that one of her pieces is out there being sold to a random buyer halfway across the country and more than 60 years after she painted it is just out-of-this-world crazy to me.

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This is the painting that Google found for me. I want it. I really, really, really, really want it.

I never had a chance to meet Phyllis, but she has always been a source of inspiration and a driving force in my life. She died quite young- before my parents were even married (just nine days before in fact) but my mom talked about her a lot. I used to love to hear stories about her because she was so intriguing. I imagined her to be tragic and beautiful and smart and strong and quirky and lovely and I always wished more than anything that I could have known her.

We had some pictures of her and we had a few of her paintings but that’s it. My grandfather remarried a few years after she died and his new wife threw out almost everything that had been hers. My aunt was away at college and my mom was living in Japan at the time and didn’t find out about it until she returned home, too late to save anything. Losing all of her mother’s treasures was deeply painful for her and it’s something she’s never gotten over. But she tried to keep her spirit alive by sharing what she did still have- her memories and her stories.

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Phyllis, Renald (Bud), Louis and Ellis in 1935 or 1936

Phyllis Kocher Amman was born in Omaha, Nebraska on August 7, 1917, to Ellis Lundgren Kocher and Louis Kocher, but she spent most of her childhood in Palo Alto, California where the family moved when she was very young. She had a twin brother named Bud who she remained extremely close to even after circumstance and distance kept them apart. Their father died suddenly from a brain hemorrhage when they were just 19 years old, and the shared loss instilled in them a deep appreciation for family ties and an intense need to stay connected. When they married and had families of their own they, their spouses and children all maintained a close, loving relationship that transcended the miles that separated them. When Bud also died suddenly at age 49, Phyllis was heartbroken.

She attended UC Berkeley where she received a degree in social work. She also completed some graduate work in social welfare at Berkeley and later went on to continue her education at the Farnham School of Art in Surrey, England, the University of Rhode Island and Salve Regina University in Newport, R.I. All of this is amazing considering at that time, most women didn’t even finish high school, let alone set their sites on a Master’s Degree. In fact, according to the Education Census Bureau, just 35% of women earned a high school diploma in 1940 and a mere 5% went on to graduate from college. She was an influencer, a game-changer, a real go-getter!

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Phyllis and Barney’s wedding photo

While she was at Berkeley, Phyllis met my grandfather, Bernard Amman, a Navy pilot who also has a fascinating story that I’ll save for Memorial Day because well, you’ll see why when I write it. Their meeting was the start of a great love affair that endured hard times and unfolded all around the world. Shortly after they were married, the US entered WWII and Barney was deployed to the Pacific. He spent a good deal of time flying missions during the War and was historically shot down and rescued after three days at sea during the Battle of Midway (he’s even written up in books and stuff- more on that later).

While her husband was off saving the world, she was doing good work at home. She was a firm believer in having a community-based vocation so she served as a juvenile court probation officer, a recreation supervisor, a family caseworker and a Navy Relief interviewer. And because apparently, that didn’t keep her busy enough, she set up and ran a Navy Relief Thrift shop to help fellow Navy families in need. After Barney came back, she followed him around the world, perfecting the art of being a Navy wife: hosting fabulous dinner parties, organizing luncheons on the military base, volunteering with various service organizations, keeping an impeccable house and raising two spirited young girls in far-flung places like Guam, Japan, the United Kingdom, and perhaps the most exotic of all: Pensacola, Florida.

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Also, apparently she could fish (or look good trying)!

Oh, and she also passed her spare time wherever they were stationed by getting really involved with the local community.  For example,  she helped promote Japanese-American relations as a cultural ambassador while they lived in Japan and Guam, and she established the Art Association of Pensacola in Florida, where she also set up the first art gallery and studio and acted as head instructor, earning a spot as an honorary life-long member.

In Newport, R.I, where the family finally settled, Phyllis didn’t miss a beat. While maintaining a career as a devoted social worker focused on family and children advocacy and pursuing her passion as a painter, she served as Director of the Neighborhood Youth Corps, and, for a time, as Vice-President of the Newport Branch American Association of University Women. She was also a member of the Quota Club and the Art Association, the Newport County Council of Community Service, was on the executive board of the War College Wives and was a member of the Navy Footlighters, a drama group that performed locally. All of this, and she was a Navy Commander’s wife, with all the visible roles and multiple responsibilities that go along with that. By all accounts, she relished the job- drawing on the deep love she had for her husband to support him and help him excel in his career.

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Ceci & Aki: prim(ish) & proper(ish) in England

Perhaps her most important role, however, was being a mom. She encouraged my mom and her sister to be compassionate, generous, strong-willed, independent and proud. She taught them that it was important to work hard and give back, and she encouraged them to engage in volunteerism and to be involved with the community. She also instilled in them the importance of finding time to pursue individual passions and focus on the things in life that make you happy.

Though she didn’t start painting until her late 20s or early 30s, Phyllis became quite an accomplished artist who delighted family, friends and strangers alike with her talent. She was well known in the Newport area. She won multiple awards and her paintings adorned galleries across the region. But perhaps the most valuable works were the ones that were reserved for her family including some fabulous portraits and other pieces that adorned the walls of all my childhood homes and some less fabulous but equally delightful early works that she painted for her beloved brother.

And, despite all her impressive accomplishments, Phyllis was still endearingly human. My mom always used to recount how her mother could whip up canapés for 200 but had a hard time putting a tuna casserole or any other sensible meal on the table (usually she mentioned this as she was setting a tuna casserole on our table and I’m still not sure if this was in defense of the casserole or an apology for it).

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Phyllis: queen of petit fours and master highball maker

It seems particularly unfair that someone so vibrant, full of life, and determined to give so much was struck down by a fatal illness when she was far, far too young. In fact, it was an illness that she lived with for years, while accomplishing more than most healthy people can even dream about. You see, Phyllis had chronic leukemia, something she neglected to tell most people, including her own daughters, until she absolutely had to, when chronic became acute and she couldn’t fight anymore. She didn’t want anyone to worry, she didn’t want pity and she didn’t want to stop until she had to. But, ultimately she did have to, much earlier than seems right or fair.

The end of the story is a sad one. This lively, beautiful, talented, generous human finally succumbed to the devastating result of her disease when she was just 50 years old, leaving behind a heartbroken husband and daughters who adored her and felt lost without her, her brother’s family who all loved her deeply and a community of friends who admired her, appreciated her and counted on her. She tried to hold on for so long, but the reality of life is that the one thing you can’t control is how much time you have. She was buried the same week my parents were married. Her untimely death would have been tragic at any point, but given that it happened during a time that should have been joyful for everyone made it particularly gut-wrenching.

She left a huge void here on earth, but she also left a beautiful imprint.

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Ceci & Aki: Phyllis’ greatest legacy

It’s amazing to me that she accomplished all that she did in a time when it was deemed unnecessary for women to do anything other than run an efficient household and raise obedient children. She’s a testament that you can do anything, anything you set your mind to, and nothing need get in your way. Not the fact that you’re a woman, not the times you live in, not the circumstances you find yourself facing. And, your life certainly should not be measured by how many years you live, but instead by what you do with the years that you have. It’s so cliché to say that, I know. I know. But really, it’s true. You need to do all the things, now, while you can. Phyllis was on this earth for just 50 short years, but she understood that and she left an impact that will resonate for generations to come.

So as we wind down Women’s History Month, let’s vow to celebrate all the amazing women who have made history, but let’s also remember all the everyday women who have led extraordinary lives, who have made their own mark, and who have changed the world simply by being ambitious, and generous, and by instilling in their daughters and granddaughters the importance of living life fully and with purpose.

Thank you, Phyllis. For everything, everything.

John and Yoko and the Vernal Equinox

IMG_3516Does it come as a surprise to anyone, anywhere that John and Yoko were married on the vernal equinox? Of course it doesn’t! The vernal equinox is the most perfectly balanced day of the year AND the most hopeful one. It’s a day meant for peace and harmony and light. It’s better than the other equinox that happens in September because that one takes away our sunshine. This one brings it ON. And it signifies the beginning of spring- the season of renewal. Flowers, and butterflies, and rosé – oh my!

The Lennon’s were really good at promoting the idea that peace and harmony should reign supreme in your life. But I wonder if they were any better at finding true balance than the rest of us are? I mean, I struggle with it every day and I have a feeling that their personal agendas were a lot fuller than mine. Because you know, I don’t jet between London and New York and L.A. Not as a rule, anyway. And I haven’t even written one hit song, let alone start an entire music revolution. Yet. There’s still time for that though, right? Yeah, right.

But anyway, I digress. What I mean to be talking about is this idea of balance. Today is one of two days this year that there will be 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night everywhere in the world. Everywhere! That’s kind of amazing. And kind of inspiring. When else does the world feel so equitable? Or balanced?

So I want to use that. I want to take this notion of balance and try to apply it to my lopsided life. But it’s already 11:00 am and I haven’t managed to do it yet, so I think I need to hurry up. Here’s a recap of my morning:

Tumble out of bed, stumble to the kitchen, pour myself a cup of ambition… no, wait. Wait! That’s not me. That’s Dolly Parton.

Tumbled out of bed, stumbled to the kitchen, poured myself a cup of very strong coffee…yes! This sounds more like me. Then I opened my laptop and banged out one of the two grant proposals for a school I volunteer at that are due by the end of the week. After that, I ran out to get the mail that I forgot to get last night, piled the tax docs on top of the stack waiting for my attention, paid a few bills and then headed back to the kitchen to try to scrounge together lunch for the kids with the refrigerator dregs (challenging because I didn’t have time to go the store yesterday). Went for a quick run because I’m training (in theory) for a half marathon to raise money for a cause I believe strongly in. Froze my fingers off taking the pictures featured here (you’re welcome) and lamented the fact that it felt more like January than March. Got chased by a fox. Yes, a fox, a very healthy looking fox. Ran back really fast. Really fast. Made it home in one piece, caught my breath (kind of), sewed up a rip in a really ripped up pair of jeans (because apparently, it was one rip too many). Drove my daughter to school in her perfectly ripped jeans. Made breakfast for my son, spent 15 minutes debating whether the Universe is really infinite or not (he thinks not, I think yes). Hopped in the shower, threw on some clothes, unearthed my favorite black heels that have been missing since last week. Bandaged up a pocket knife wound (not sure how it happened because I was in the shower). Got my boy on the bus, drove an hour to work, dropped my bag at my desk, ran to a meeting. Got coffee. Took a deep breath, made a note of my very long to-do list. And that’s where I currently am. I’ve got 35 minutes before my next meeting and I really shouldn’t be doing this right now. But this is what I do to decompress. There are too many words in my head and some of them just need to go.

Oh YEAH, and my husband called to say he might get stuck in Alabama because that’s where he is now and another storm’s a coming. Fab.U. Lous. Also, our snowblower is broken. Yippeeeeeee.

Not all of my days start like this. Just most of them. And it’s ok. I’m not complaining about it. I’m wondering how to accept it. I’m wondering how to take all that I do and feel empowered and accomplished instead of overwhelmed and exhausted.

When life is hectic and you’re focused on getting task after task after task done, it’s easy to lose sight of who you are, who you want to be, and what makes you truly happy. I think the key is finding little moments of quiet in between the chaos to focus on the positive things instead of the negative ones, to remember the “why”, and to discover the best “how”.  And maybe finding joy or peace or balance means something different every day. Maybe today it means appreciating that gorgeous sunrise, or listening to a lot of John Lennon as I pound away at my keyboard. And maybe tomorrow it will mean a few extra seconds spent on a good-bye hug. And maybe the day after that it will mean sleeping in just 5 minutes extra, or crawling into one of my kids’ beds for an extra snuggle before the day explodes. Or maybe, maybe… it’s just taking one day at a time and remembering that all of these things that I do are gifts, not punishments. I’m able to do them and I’m free to do them. That should mean everything.

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Empower a girl, change the world…

“And your arm felt nice wrapped ’round my shoulder.
And I had a feeling that I belonged. I had a feeling I could be someone, be someone, be someone.” – t.c

Every girl deserves a chance to be someone regardless of her family’s financial means or life situation. That’s why I’m dedicating all of my training runs for the Providence Half Marathon as part of the SoleMates 2018 Team to helping provide disadvantaged girls access to a transformative program that will help them build confidence and give them the life skills they need to succeed. Join me in honor of Women’s History Month and help turn today’s girls into the women who will make history tomorrow. Every gift big or small makes a difference!

Learn more about GOTRI-RI.

DONATE!

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Sunday Funday at the MFA

IMG_2990I don’t know if you’ve heard but southeastern Massachusetts got pummelled by the storm that tore up the East Coast this past weekend. The nor’easter whipped through on Friday night and left a wake of flooded basements, toppled trees and downed power lines. 100% of my little coastal town was without electricity until today. Our house was dark and cold and wet and miserable. But you know what? I feel pretty lucky. Because this is the second major storm to knock out our power since Puerto Rico was devasted by Hurricane Maria back in September and though much of their island is still reeling from the disaster, we’re already back on our feet. And we had relief even in the worst of it- friends with generators, neighboring towns with power (and hot coffee!) and crews working round the clock to clear the streets and get the lights back on.

Anyway, we are very fortunate AND we’re none the worse for wear. Plus, thanks to some pretty fabulous friends, the weekend (and my birthday!) actually turned out pretty great despite it all. Sat night was a girls night in that left me feeling really grateful for the people who are always there to pick me up when I need it and Sunday was spent at the MFA with two of my fave lovely ladies and the fabulous (and cheerful) Takashi Murakami. The MFA is beautiful and classic and full of surprises. It’s a perfect place to spend a rainy Sunday. I really love it and I think you will too.

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I was so excited to see this exhibit because I’ve been thinking about it for months. I think Japanese art is really cool and Murakami is extra great.
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My daughter thought it was weird that I took a pic of this, but I love typography. It’s part of the experience for me. Maybe that makes me weird? Probably.
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Can you spot the one sad flower? That was me on Friday when I turned a number that sounds really old. Really, really old.
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All of Murakami’s works are whimsical but also powerful.
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Ok, maybe not ALL of them are powerful, but they are all whimsical. And cute. And just a tiny bit perplexing.
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This is what the inside of my brain looks like after a long week of work that also includes coordinating kids activities, managing household responsibilities, juggling a bajillion other peripheral things and generally trying to keep my shit together while remaining happy and healthy. Takashi gets it. He really gets it.
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Meet Mr. Dob. He’s kind of like Mickey but more menacing and possibly under the influence of some psychedelic drug. But he still manages to be cute.
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We decided that Murakami must have painted this one on his birthday when he turned my age.
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What we wanted to know was how big is this guy’s studio? This is one continuous canvas and it has to be like a half a mile long. Also, it’s pretty fabulous.
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Moving on to the American Artists floor: furniture is art, even (especially?) mid-century furniture.
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I think I’ve mentioned how much I enjoy Chihuly. This one is pretty great, isn’t it? Also, this is a good spot in the museum to stop for coffee. Or wine. Wine is always a good idea, no matter where you are (Chihuly or no).
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This was part of the”Japan in the Psychedelic Seventies” exhibit. I can’t show much of this because most of the images were really bizarre and bordered on the pornographic. But this one was just kind of Pink Floyd-ish and I think that’s pretty safe.
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Another great exhibit on now is the (Un)expected Families photo collection. I don’t know why I didn’t take more pics in this hall because so many of the images were really beautiful.
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You can’t skip Escher’s Passion for Patterns. We walked right by these at first, but I’m glad we doubled back to see them because they’re super cool. There are 50 that you can study and ponder and try to wrap your brain around. Til your eyes cross. Then you’ve got to move on.
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There are so many good things happening all at once here in this hallway. It kind of looks like a happy accident. That’s the way life should be.
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This Mark Rothko piece is the most interesting and complex one in the entire museum. These people spent so long looking at it that I started to think they might actually have been part of the installation. Maybe they know something I don’t? Or possibly (probably) they are just more sophisticated art viewers than I am.
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I’m calling this “self-portrait featuring daughter and friend”
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Everything is an illusion, or is it? We spent some time pondering this…
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Then we got to the halls that housed what my daughter called the “boring art” …
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But art is never boring.
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You just need to be one with the art.
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But really and truly, if masterpieces just aren’t your thing it’s ok. You might like the Making Modern galleries better. There you’ll find O’Keefe, Kahlo, Pollock, and Piccaso. Inspiration at every turn!
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And yes, please do all of this. And don’t do the other stuff. Except eat. Why is eat crossed off? We all need to eat.

When my son was small he used to call any experience that didn’t last all day a “tiny day”. And by that, I think he meant it was so good that we should have spent more time doing what we were doing but since we didn’t it was tiny when it could have been huge. Well, that was our tiny day at the MFA. I hope you enjoyed tagging along.

Before I go I’m going to give a shout out the other ladies that made this a really great weekend, despite the crazy weather and the scary birthday number. And, I’ll leave you with a little advice. When you’re feeling down, put on a little red lipstick. You’ll look ridiculous but feel fabulous and sometimes that’s all you need to remember that life is pretty great.

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Whatcha’ doin’ in DC? Museums, Monuments & Memorials!

IMG_2542Never mind all the stuff that’s happening behind the scenes and behind closed doors in Washington these days. It’s still a great place for a little trip. In fact, with all the unseemly things going on, it’s actually a perfect time to go. Because D.C. is a shrine to everything that’s good about America. It’s a reminder of all the wonderful things that have been dreamed, designed, created, engineered and produced by Americans in America. I have to be honest- I needed the reminder. We are a nation of people who have pushed boundaries to overcome great adversity, invented innovative products and developed cutting-edge technology to solve complex problems, and created a vast array of arts and entertainment to enrich lives. We have found common ground during contentious times. Really, we have! If we can hold on to all the good, there’s no end to the amazing things that can happen right here on American soil. We just need to cut out the crazy. So, let’s cut out the crazy, ya’ll!  It’s really distracting and we’ve got a lot of work to do. In the meantime, take a quick walk around town with me and I’ll show you why all of a sudden I feel a bit more hopeful. Remember the future is rooted in the past…

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First of all, make sure you check your tickets and know which airport you’re flying out of. Because if you don’t and you have two likely possibilities you might have to scramble to make your flight. Oops.
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We stayed near Dupont Circle which is a great spot because you can walk almost anywhere. Even in the rain. The ceaseless, endless rain that doesn’t let up for the entire time you are there. Luckily there’s a CVS on every corner so if you also forgot to the check the weather before you left, you can buy an umbrella (or two or three).
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Plus, there’s a fantastic bookstore in Dupont. I always go where the books are and Kramer Books & Afterwards has all the books, plus a cafe and a bar. What else do you need in life? I could have just stayed there, but I heard there were a few other things to see in town.
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So we headed down toward all the main sites, but we stopped to say hello to the good guys. #muellertime
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Our route also took us past the EPA. What a relief to see it still standing.
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It was a total happy accident that we were in DC right after the Obama Portraits were unveiled at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.  Honestly, I would have skipped this museum otherwise and that would have been a shame because it’s fabulous.
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Kehinde Wiley really captured the essence of President Obama. It’s a gorgeous piece of art. And it’s way cooler than George Washington’s portrait. Portrait art has come a long way, baby.
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This woman is everything I aspire to be when I grow up. Thanks, Amy Sherald for the beautiful portrait of a truly inspiring human and role model.
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There are a lot of other interesting portraits in the gallery and I can’t possibly show you all of them, so I’m moving on to the other side of the building which I loved equally. This is the American Art Gallery. The building is beautiful and so is everything in it.
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Like this Hockney. Wait a minute. He’s not even American! Oh well, let’s not sweat the technical details. And anyway, everyone is welcome in America!! Aren’t they?
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Nam June Paik was actually American so that’s probably why he was inspired to create this. I really like this piece- it’s called the Electronic Superhighway. It’s really electric (I mean that literally and as an adjective).
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We hadn’t planned to visit Ford’s Theatre but we walked right by it, so why not?
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Today it’s a working theatre so you can see a show just like Lincoln did, but you can’t sit in his seat. I asked if that was out of respect but the tour guide said it was to deter people who are tempted to try to recreate John Wilkes Booth’s leap to the stage. Hmm… I don’t know. Really? People really want to do that? But why? Because breaking a leg is fun?
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There’s a little museum attached to the theatre and you can ask Honest Abe a few questions but he probably won’t answer you. Probably, but you never know. Stranger things have happened (especially in Washington).
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If you’re looking for a cool place to spend some time taking a break from museums and monuments, head to Georgetown. This is one of my favorite neighborhoods anywhere. Is it something about the painted brick, maybe? The wide streets? The variety of available shopping and eating establishments? The general adorableness? I don’t know. But I like it. I like it a lot.
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There are several embassies in Georgetown. This one has to be the cutest. It’s the Embassy of Antigua and Barbuda. I feel like everyone who works here would be very cheerful and kind. I don’t know why. Also, it had me thinking of warm, sunny days and how we almost went to Martinique instead where it would have been warm and sunny and not rainy and coldish. Not that that makes any sense because I don’t even think Martinique is near Antigua but this is how my brain works.
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My husband did his undergrad at Georgetown University so we spent some time walking around campus and helping him feel young again. I suggested doing a few quick beer funnels and streaking across the quad, but he demurred. I don’t think he would have liked me too much if he’d known me in college.
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There are a fair amount of awesome independent and funky shops in the neighborhood. Here my son is trying to figure out how to bring this sign back on the plane. Is it small enough to fit in the overhead? We don’t check bags for weekend trips…
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This place had a really fantastic mix of Italian products including imported chocolate that cost $47/lb. Note, that doesn’t say $4.70/lb. Don’t make the same mistake I did. Or maybe you like spending that much on penny candy. For me, it seems like an oxymoron. Or just moronic. Though, it was pretty good chocolate I have to say.
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If you’re in Georgetown you have to eat at the Tombs. It’s mandatory. Or at the very least it’s a tradition- so be traditional and eat at the Tombs! We did and everyone was happy.
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The next day, guess what? It was still raining. But what’s a little rain when there are sites to see? Soggy sites are still sites worth seeing.
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And anyway, if you go to Washington and you don’t visit the Lincoln Memorial did you really go to Washington?
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And if you don’t take a selfie and post it on social media, did it really happen?
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This is the new Museum of African American History. I can only show you the outside because getting tickets to see inside proved impossible. We tried for three days in a row with no luck. Gah. Maybe next time.
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This is the original Smithsonian Institute building and these are random people who probably just visited it. We didn’t so you’d have to ask them how it was.
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I feel like everywhere we go lately we run into an Olmec. It’s weird.
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No trip anywhere is complete until you see a Narwhal.  Also, no trip to D.C is complete without a visit to the Natural History Museum.
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Or the Air and Space Museum. In fact, this is probably the most visited museum in Washington. I’m totally making that up, but it seems true, doesn’t it? “Seems true” is closer to “really true” in Washington than it is anywhere else.
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This brings back childhood memories. I might have been here a time or two or three or ten. My dad was in the Air Force and we were in Washington a lot.
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It blows my mind that John Glenn hurled through the vastness of space in this tiny thimble of a spacecraft. How do you not feel insignificant? Oh, I know- because you’re making history, that’s how.
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Rockets. Woah.
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So many different engines and machines and feats of engineering genius to talk about here! This could have been a very long discussion but luckily I’m good at distracting (usually with food)…
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But I could have told you how this would turn out…
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Yep, with me capturing the exact minute my son decided he didn’t want to be an astronaut after all.
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The American History Museum is also very cool- you can see Dorothy’s slippers and the real Star Spangled Banner (but you can’t take pics so this is the best I could do for you). There’s also a 3D movie about the Natural Parks that makes you want to pack your bags right now and go. I’ve decided we HAVE to go to Utah next. Stay tuned for that…
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And there is an auto section. Of course there is. I’ve mentioned before that we always, always, always, somehow end up looking at cars.
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One thing I love about visiting the Smithsonian museums is that your kids are being entertained AND educated all at the same time and they don’t even realize what’s happening to them. They’re learning without even knowing it!
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Ok. the Hirshhorn is my FAVORITE museum in D.C. I love, love, love it. And, the “Brand New: Art and Commodities in the 80s” exhibit was a highlight of the trip for me because it was like seeing an old friend.
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Oh, this. 80’s glam life goals.
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Statement Art (obvious)
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Statement Art (subtle)
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Everyone needs something to believe in. I believe that it’s ok to believe whatever you believe. So go on and believe.
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Who’s to say what is art? Art just is.
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Phew! That was a lot of museum pics. Let’s switch gears. Books! If you find yourself in the Adams Morgan neighborhood check out this used bookstore. They’ve got really interesting used books. That’s all I’ll say.
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And then eat dinner at Bistrot du Coin. This is a really good not-fancy French restaurant that feels really authentic. You can walk in looking all disheveled from the rain and 10 hours of museum-going and no one cares. They’ll serve you an apero and some moules & frites and everyone is happy.
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If you eat a lot at Bistro du Coin AND you get up at 6:30 a. m the next morning to try to get tix to the Museum of African American History (and fail for the 3rd time) you can make yourself feel better by taking a (rainy!) run around (adorable!) Georgetown.
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No rest for the weary! This is the National Art Gallery. My son dubbed this one the “old people’s art gallery” but what I think he meant was it has a lot of fine art displayed in a classic style.
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The Newseum is across the street from the old people’s art gallery and it’s a crowd pleaser for any age!
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I like the First Amendment so much more than the Second Amendment. And I am allowed to say that.
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This is really a fascinating place that combines history with how it’s been documented and announced as it unfolded through the decades.
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The Pulitzer Prize Photographs on display brought tears to my eyes. Really and truly a  moving experience.
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So much history displayed here- all documented by mind-blowingly talented photographers. I can’t even describe it in words. The photos are the story and no words are needed.
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This is an actual section of the Berlin Wall.  Amazing.
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Next up was the American Art Gallery. There’s a giant Calder mobile in the lobby and a Jackson Pollock mural upstairs. We have a few Pollock knock off’s at home that my kids painted, but seeing the real deal is a treat.
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The Outliers and Vanguard Art exhibit was really cool. All pieces were made by self-taught artists during an era when they were totally underappreciated. I’m glad they’re finally getting recognized for what they are (which is a beautiful expression of raw talent).
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I call this one “boy who is tired of looking at art”.
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One last museum to round out the trip. The National Geographic Museum has an interactive Tomb of Christ exhibit that’s fantastic. It’s 3D and VR ( though not at the same time- that would probably be a bit much).
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You can also see Stephen Wilkes Day to Night Photography and learn how he captures 24 hours worth of images and melds them into a single photograph. I am way too impatient for that kind of thing, but I really appreciate the result.
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The last night we were in town we decided to check out the newly revived wharf district (appropriately named District Wharf). But it was 8:00 pm on a Friday night and all the restaurants were packed. We had a hangry kid who couldn’t wait 90 minutes for a table, so we didn’t stay. But this is an area worth checking out if you’re better planners than we are and you make a reservation at one of the hotspots.
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After we went all the way down to the water and back we ended up here, which was one block from our hotel. And it was the best meal we ate all weekend. If you are in town I highly recommend Boqueria for tapas and wine. And Nutella stuffed churros. Yep, you heard that right.
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So, I’ll leave you now with one last thought. Great things have happened in the United States of America and lots of it is on display in Washington D.C. What happens next is up to you!

That one time, in Providence…

IMG_2245Ah, divine Providence. No, no… not God’s intervention in the world. Providence, Rhode Island. You know- that little city in that little state that you probably never think about. It’s ok, I don’t blame you. Why would you think about a smudge of a spot when the world is vast and amazing and full of wonderful places to visit? Why, indeed. Well, because it’s pretty wonderful in its own right, that’s why. No, really- I’m serious. I’ll share with you what a day in Providence might be like for you, and then maybe you’ll come see for yourself (and yes, you should come see for yourself).

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Start your morning off at Olga’s Cup and Saucer in the Jewelry District. The coffee is fantastic and the food is even better. You should buy a baguette and eat the whole thing. Why not? You’re on vacation.
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And you can put that carbo-loading to use by taking a stroll down by the river. Down by the river is where it’s at (well not really, it’s actually fairly quiet, but it’s a pretty walk with nice views of the city).
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I love the mix of the old and the new. And sharp angles and rounded corners. It’s so, well I don’t know what it is… it just speaks to me.
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There’s a really vibrant arts community in Providence and the vibe Downcity is decidedly artsy. Street art, galleries and little shops selling locally made products abound (well abound in the small city definition of abounding, which I guess is not really abounding, but more just existing in a state more than not existing at all).  This is Umberto Crenca’s work. He’s pretty badass.
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Make sure your feet take you to Westminster Street. There are lots of independent shops to peek in and support. No Gap or Banana here. You have to go to the mall for that (but don’t do that). This is Symposium Books. It’s my fave. I think I’ve established that I like books.  They have loads of used and new ones. And also they have records. Which is very cool.
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After you finish digging, you can have lunch at Small Point Cafe. I love this place. Good food, good people, good vibes only.
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After you finish your sandwich, or soup, or whatever, head on up to College Hill. Once you catch your breath (they don’t call it College Hill because it’s flat) stop and take a look around. You’ll feel like you stepped back in time. And there’s a good reason for that! This neighborhood is home to some of the oldest buildings in America, and it’s on the National Historic Register. It’s also considered one of Americas Best Places because it’s so well preserved. I read that somewhere, so it must be true.
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Brown University takes up a good amount of real estate on College Hill and that’s not a bad thing. The campus is crazy beautiful. The buildings, the green space, everything. It’s got a storied history, but I’ll let you discover more about that when you come.
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See what I mean? It’s beautiful. I come up here to eat lunch sometimes to remember what it feels like to be a carefree college student. I didn’t go to Brown, but I could have if I’d studied harder in high school. A lot harder. But I can visit every day now and that’s almost the same thing. And, I don’t even have to go to class! Winning.
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There’s more to Brown than meets the eye. If you get tired of all the lovely old traditional buildings, take a deeper look. This is the stairwell at the List Art Center.
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It’s 5 or 6 floors dedicated to freedom of expression and nods to modern culture and society.  I see there are fellow Lost fans out there who are also still upset that it wasn’t Penny’s boat. Why wasn’t it Penny’s boat? The ending would have probably been so much better.
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Here’s a good reminder of what needs to happen more.
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Freedom of expression doesn’t just happen in hidden stairwells on campus, don’t worry about that. This is Urs Fischer’s giant blue gummy bear (a.k.a Bluno). It’s creepy and cute… creepily cute? You totally will want to climb on it, but that’s not allowed. So you just have to stand in front of it and wonder why????
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There’s lots more to see up on College Hill- more of the campus, gorgeous homes, Thayer St & Wickendon St for shopping, and a whole bunch of eating and drinking places, but you’ll just have to imagine what they look like (or come visit yourself). I love this street though so I’m sharing one last pic of the hill before I move on.
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And by move on, I mean head just a bit downhill to the Providence Athenaeum which I think is my most favorite spot in the whole city. Because I love books and I love old buildings and this is an old building with lots of books. So… need I say more?
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There’s also a lot of these guys hanging around. Oh, and Edgar Allen Poe used to meet his girlfriend here. Amazing right? Who would have thought that he had a girlfriend! He was so morose and morbid, it must not have been much fun to date him. But at least he liked books!
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By this time, it’ll probably be afternoon and if you’re like me you’ll need some caffeine to keep you going. Lucky for you Bolt Coffee is across the street. And it’s located inside the RISD Museum, which is what you should check out next anyway.
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I love the RISD Museum for its eclectic mix of art. They’ve got masters and student art and everything in between. A little of this, a little of that. Something for everyone!
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Currently on now is Justin Kimball’s Elegy. It’s a series of photographs taken in rural Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.  It depicts life in small towns after they’ve lost the industries that once made them prosperous communities. It’s haunting and lovely and sad and hopeful in a weird way.
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Other works of art. I’m not sure if my son is in awe or sleeping on his feet. Maybe this room isn’t the most exciting one in the museum.
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There’s even a Chihuly! I’m so excited that this is here this because I really wanted to see the Chihuly exhibit at the NYBG this summer and I missed it. If you missed it too, you can come to PVD and see this one. Yay!
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After the museum, spend some time on Main Street. The Federal Style buildings are pretty special.
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See? You almost expect Roger Williams himself to come galloping down the street on his trusty steed.
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There’s one more book related place you have to check out, and that’s the RISD Library. It used to be a bank and it’s fabulous.
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Truly.
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After that fun-filled day, you might need some tequila. So head back to the Jewelry District and stop at Xaco Taco for tequila.
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And tacos. They have tacos too. And they make them in a VW Bus. Of course they do!
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If beer is more your thing, you have to check out Bayberry Beer Hall. Great beer, great food, great vibe. Great everything.
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I might have been there a time or two with my partner in crime.
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If you prefer a more subdued dinner, head on over to Oberlin. It’s so pretty and cozy in there, and the food is amazing.
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Or you could go to Kleos for a  modern take on Greek if you prefer. It’s also very pretty with amazing food. And it’s right next door to Oberlin. I guess you could try both if you’re extra ambitious…
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If you’re staying over, you should probably check into the Dean Hotel. I’ve never actually stayed there, but I like the lobby because it’s cool. And, it’s home to an awesome speakeasy that serves up the best cocktails in the city (which I have been to ah maybe once or twice). Not only that, but there’s a karaoke bar and a really popular restaurant right on site. Also, you’ll probably need strong coffee in the morning if you’ve visited all of the places I suggested that serve alcohol, and you’ll find another Bolt right on the premises. So… this place is kind of like a  one-stop spot. In fact, forget the rest of Providence. Just hang out at the Dean!
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I’m not sure when you’re planning to come (and you know you are after this enlightening post), but maybe it should be in the summer so you can experience Adam Anderson’s 10,000 Suns installation. It’s really fantastical and magical.  And anyway, let’s face it, everything is better in summer.

So, that’s Providence in a nutshell. There’s lots more to see and do…well maybe not lots but at least a few more things to see and do..oh OH! like PV Donuts. How could I almost forget? On your way out of town, you have to stop at PV Donuts and treat yo’self to the craziest, yummiest, most creative, and stomach pain inducing (in a good way) donuts around. You’ll be glad you did!

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Providence awaits! See ya’ll soon!

This land is Parkland, this land is…

IMG_1988I can’t write about Parkland. I’m sorry, but I can’t, much as my heart bleeds for the victims, the community, and for all of us. I’ve said it all before anyway… wasn’t it just a few months ago, after Las Vegas that I told you how I felt about gun control? So, yeah. The only thing I’ll say before moving on is that the families of those victims (beautiful high school kids with their whole lives ahead of them and dedicated educators) deserve more from our President. This isn’t about mental health reform. It’s about gun legislation and passing sensible gun laws which he won’t even talk about because of his NRA money. It’s all about the money.

Oops, I’m writing about it. My fingers seem to have a mind of their own. I was seriously going to sit down and tell you about my book club book because we discussed it last night and it was really thought-provoking. But I guess I’m going to talk about the most recent (certainly not the last) mass shooting after all. How could I not? It’s part of the fabric of our lives right now so it’s pretty much unavoidable. The sad thing is, I’m not even surprised anymore. Not even one bit. I am officially anesthetized. You get to the point when you hear the news when you think to yourself “please just don’t let the body count be too high”. And that’s really sad.

One of the victims in the picture looked a little bit like me at that age. Her story ended on Wednesday but I’ve been able to see and do a million things since my high school days. That’s gut-wrenching. She won’t get to experience any of it because it was all too easy for her 19-year-old murderer to get his hands on a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle.

“The AR-15 rifle used in the attack was purchased legally, at Sunrise Tactical Supply in Florida, according to a federal law enforcement official. The arrest report said Mr. Cruz purchased it in February 2017. “No laws were violated in the procurement of this weapon,” said Peter J. Forcelli, the special agent in charge for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms in Miami. “

I watched the speech Trump gave in response to the tragedy.  He vowed (in a measured voice dripping with insincerity and void of real emotion)  to do everything he can to make America’s children feel safe in their schools. Everything but put measures in place that would stop easy access to assault rifles, machine guns and large capacity ammunition magazines- weapons no civilian has any need for whatsoever. A glaring omission.

I have a 14-year-old daughter. As I write this she is currently in the kitchen making her lunch to bring to school. She’s packed her backpack with the homework she finished last night, and she tucked the note I wrote so she could go to a friend’s house after school in the front pocket of her frayed and ripped jeans. After debating for what seems like an exorbitant amount of time, she’s decided what shoes to wear and her new canary yellow Converse hightops are laced up just right. Her phone keeps buzzing with snaps and Insta notifications. There’s a basketball game tonight; plans must be made. Music is wafting from her room, lending a rhythmic beat to our morning routine and the bathroom smells like Bath and Body Works. There is toothpaste all over the sink (gah). In a few minutes, I’ll braid her hair in two neat french braids that she’ll immediately take out because they look “too lumpy”. She’ll kiss me goodbye (or she won’t depending on her mood) and then she’ll walk out the front door.

What if my girl doesn’t come home today?  Tell me, Mr. President, what if she doesn’t come home?

Another head hangs lowly
Child is slowly taken
And the violence caused such silence
Who are we mistaking?
But, you see it’s not me
It’s not my family…

 

 

12 days into 2018 and…

IMG_0826I’m at a loss for words. I really am. I have just typed, erased, typed, erased, typed and erased again the first sentence to this post, where I had planned to express my feelings about the President of the United States describing other countries as “shitholes”. But now I can’t because I simply cannot articulate how this makes me feel. It was stomach churning at the least, I can tell you that. And he followed it up by asking why more people can’t come from places like Norway. Um. How is it not yet clear what we are dealing with? The Donald has shown his true colors (again) and they are definitively black and white.

Last night, as I sat on the couch flipping from news program to news program, my son said “Mom, why do you even watch this stuff? I feel like it just makes you sad”.

It does make me sad. I feel sad, and exhausted and terrified every single day. I was hoping to find balance, grace, and some sort of peace in 2018 but already that seems like an impossible dream. I thought after last year we had nowhere to go but up, but it’s clear that we haven’t even hit the bottom yet. How low will this deranged, bigoted, misogynistic, idiotic, hate-mongering lunatic take us, and will we be able to preserve a little bit of our human decency?

I know there are millions and millions of people feeling exactly like I feel today, but I can’t help but think of the people that are supporting him, or at the very least allowing him to get away with this type of indecency. I’m talking about the people appointed to serve in our government who are supposed to maintain order and ensure checks and balances endure so that we as a nation and as individuals are fairly represented. I can’t wrap my brain around the fact that any human would be able to justify what he said at all. He is the President. Of. The. United. States. and this is DEPLORABLE. Beyond deplorable. It’s the worst, ever. Lower than low.

I guess the one good thing is that this just strengthens my resolve to take action in 2018 and to be a role model for my kids so that they remain of strong moral character, with open hearts and open minds. I feel like it’s more important than ever to raise my voice in the name of humanity and stand up for what I know is right. I want to do this for me, to help loosen that knot in my stomach that’s been there since Nov 8, 2016. I want to do this for my kids so that they see that words and actions have power; that it’s important to take action against something you wholeheartedly believe is wrong and to have compassion and a desire to help those who are less fortunate than you are. I want to do this so that we as a nation don’t lose sight of what’s good and right about being an American. I want to do this so I can believe that there are still things that are good and right about being an American.

In our house, we watch a lot of Star Wars. I mean, A LOT. It’s something we can turn on and know everyone will be entertained by. How could you not love Star Wars? It’s the classic struggle of good vs. evil played out by endearing characters against a fantastical backdrop. It’s just magic. But it’s deeper than that; it’s real life disguised as fantasy.  We’re playing out the storyline right here on Earth. We’ve got the Empire and we’ve got the Rebel Alliance, both adamant in their beliefs and willing to fight to the death for them. In the latest movie (The Last Jedi), the Rebel Alliance, fighting for justice and equality, are in a desperate spot because the Empire is stronger than ever and they’ve been reduced to a small number of freedom fighters with little in the way of a fleet or weapons. They feel as though their support around the galaxy has deteriorated to nothing. They are running out of hope.

I won’t rehash the whole movie (you’ve probably seen it anyway) but I want to talk about the last scene. The scene where the little boy on Canto Bright holds the Alliance ring in one hand and a broom floats into his other. He holds up the broom like a lightsaber and the music swells.

tumblr_p12dmtnwE61u5d459o1_500Back in the beginning, Leia thought that Obi-Wan was their only hope and this time around Rey thought that Luke was their only hope. But neither of those proved true. The future of the Rebel Alliance is secure because of all of boys and girls all over the galaxy who believe in the cause, who feel the pull of the Force that allows them to find the strength to fight against the Dark Side. Every mission needs a leader, but no mission can succeed without an army.

Hope for us lies within every boy and girl who are taught to see the good; who are inspired to do something to preserve the good. These boys and girls grow up to be men and women who have the strength and the courage to stand up for the good. They combine their strengths and find power in their unification and collectively they can move mountains.

I mean to say, collectively WE can move mountains because WE are those people who need to unify.  We need to nurture, encourage and support the notion that there doesn’t need to be one strong person to fight for us. We are the ones that need to fight. We all can make a difference, no matter how small we are, how insignificant we feel. We just need to ignite the desire and find the motivation to do so. And we need to wholeheartedly reject the Dark Side.

WE are our only hope.

#action2018 #addyourvoice

Give me liberty, or at least drive me to Philly!

IMG-0368Holy moly- we made it! Today is the last day of the longest year there has ever been (except perhaps before we were measuring time in years).  This was a year of sucker punches and gut-wrenching events and I for one and am not sorry to see it go. Even though we’re starting 2018 in much the same situation as we’re leaving 2017 it still seems like a fresh start. Maybe that’s what drew us to end the year in Philadelphia, the birthplace of American democracy. Where it all began if you will. Our forefathers are probably rolling over in their graves right now, given the current state of government affairs, but the city of brotherly love is more fun than ever.  Here are some pics from our short but sweet trip.

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First stop was our old neighborhood- Chestnut Hill.  I still think this is the most adorable and best neighborhood ever.  I often wonder why we left such a perfect little spot. Until I remember that someone was shot in the WaWa parking lot behind our house. I guess every place has its problems.
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Here’s our old house. This was our first fixer upper (don’t ask how many have come after- that’s a story for a different day). It holds a special place in my heart because you always remember your first…
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If you don’t know why I took a picture of this door then I can’t tell you.
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Oh ok, I’ll tell you. It’s the entrance to McNally’s Tavern, the coziest local in America, and home to the world-famous Schmitter (aka sandwich to end all sandwiches). There is no sign, and no window so you just have to know it’s there. We found out about it pretty quickly when we lived in town, and proceeded to spend 5 out of 7 nights there. That was pre-kids and when my metabolism was a lot faster.
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Chestnut Hill Coffee is a good spot to stop when the temps are beyond frigid and you need something hot to bring your body temp up somewhere close to “alive”.
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We spent some time peeking into some of our favorite stores. I actually did not look very amazing on this trip because I had a huge stye in my left eye that made it look like I’d gone ten rounds with Rocky. I spent most of the time hiding behind sunglasses, which was annoying because it’s really hard to see inside with sunglasses and also I looked like a total douche. But it was either that or scare small children, so…
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Yeah, Philly pillows! And other colleges etc. that I don’t care about (but you might).
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I always try to make sure my clothing is refreshing.
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Was so much fun to meet up with Cathi and Eddie.  One of the best parts of traveling is reconnecting with people you really like spending time with that you never get to see.
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After our meet up in Chestnut Hill, we headed to Center City and our hotel. We stayed at the Logan, and you should too.
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The location is perfect because you can easily walk to the Museum of Art, the Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk or anywhere downtown. Even when it’s colder than Mars it’s not that painful to get anywhere. And, when you get back you can sit by the fire in the lobby and defrost with a nice drink.
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Philly is fun during the holidays because of things like this nice little Winterfest that was happening in front of City Hall.
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There’s even an ice rink! We didn’t skate but we could have if we had been able to feel our feet (or maybe that was just an excuse because we’re kinda lazy).
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This is just a reminder to #visitphilly
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When it’s so cold that you’re afraid you might lose a few fingers or a toe to frostbite,  you have to find somewhere inside to visit. We couldn’t think of anywhere better than One Liberty Observation Deck.
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I’m sure it’s amazing any time of day, but we went at sunset which made it extra amazing.
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Do you know about the curse of Billy Penn? No? It’s pretty interesting. I would tell you about it, but that’s what Google is for.  Anyway, that’s him perched on the top of City Hall. And we thought we were cold…
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I love Rittenhouse Square. It’s so pretty.  Definitely spend some time around the square- lots of good shops and restaurants and all the historic stuff is nearby too. Remember the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed in Philly. If we had made it to Independence Hall I was going to buy a copy of both and send them to Donald Trump. Because, well, you know why.
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This is the restaurant in our hotel. It was a tad bit out of our price range (just looking at the menu made my credit card spontaneously combust) but I did have coffee here in the morning and it was really good coffee, and a good place to hang out and catch up on all my social media.
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Here’s my “I stopped to take a pic in the middle of the street like a tourist” shot of Philly.
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The next day the fam came to town! Don’t mistake these kids for Philly hoodlums. They are hoodlums, but they aren’t from Philly.
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The kids wanted to eat at Reading Terminal. I am not going to lie- this place stresses me out. But, I feel like if you are in Philly, you have to go check it out.  The food options are limitless and the people watching is tops.
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All kinds of sundries…
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We came here so that everyone could find something they wanted to eat. But 75% of our group opted for cheesesteaks so I guess we could have just gone to a cheesesteak place, but oh well. It was fun to brave the crowds and see the sights.
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Like these books! I love it when I run into books.
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Even if you’re in Philly at a different time of year,  you should pop into Macy’s on Market St. It’s beautiful. And you can pick up a pair of socks, or a Longchamp bag. Or something.
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Our next stop was the Philadelphia Magic Gardens.  This place is probably my favorite spot in Philly. You really need to go to experience it because pictures will never do it justice.
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It is absolutely magical.
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Truly a feast for the eyes! After you visit the museum stroll down the street to see more of Isaiah Zagar’s work (it’s everywhere on South Street) and then spend some time appreciating the unique South Street vibe.
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This is the view from the rooftop bar at the Logan where we went to recharge after a day of wandering around.  Don’t worry, there’s an inside too.
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Loved the view.
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The bar was beautiful. And that’s a $3,400 bottle of cognac.
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I opted for the $7 bottle of Yards. Because when I drink, I drink local.
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Before dinner we headed back over to City Hall for the free light show. It was really beautiful and mercifully quick (7 minutes in sub-zero temps was just about enough).
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For dinner we opted for a spot on Spring Garden Street called Roy Pitz Barrel House. I loved the vibe, and also the giant pretzels. We could have just had those for dinner. I’m gonna remember that next time.
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The next morning I ran up to the art museum. I did not run up those stairs because I didn’t want to be too cliche. Also, that’s a lot of stairs. I don’t know how Rocky ran all the way from South Philly and then up all those dang stairs because my hotel was less than a mile away and I wasn’t going to do that.
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It wasn’t my most inspired run, but it was pretty. Pretty short. Ha ha.
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And because eating til you feel like puking seems to be a thing you do between Christmas and New Year’s we went to The Dandelion for brunch. I definitely want to go back because the menu looked amazing, but all I could manage was coffee and a small bite to eat. Loved the space too. I felt like maybe Betsy Ross would walk in at any minute.
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See- it’s very colonial, isn’t it?
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Like you could totally darn a flag in front of this fire.
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Then the weather started to get dicer and we thought we should head out because we had a long drive home. The snow in the city sure is pretty, but not very fun on the highway.
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We finally made it home after a harrowing drive that took 2 1/2 hours longer than normal. I’m sorry there aren’t any photos of the Liberty Bell, the Besty Ross House, Independence Hall or any of the other usual Philly sites.  But there’s a very good reason for that. And the reason is- we didn’t go to any of those places. Maybe we would have if it were warmer, but as my son said: “why go see a cracked bell when you can go see other actually cool things”?  That’s my boy. He will probably never be good at history, but he’ll live an adventurous life.

So, that’s how we wrapped up 2017. I hope the end of your year was just as lovely, and I hope that 2018 is better for everyone. I know a large part of that will have to do with what we do, so let’s get to it! Here’s our chance to move beyond anger, toward action.  We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do… insert your action item here.