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…

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.
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).
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.
So we headed down toward all the main sites, but we stopped to say hello to the good guys. #muellertime
Our route also took us past the EPA. What a relief to see it still standing.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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).
We hadn’t planned to visit Ford’s Theatre but we walked right by it, so why not?
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?
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).
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
And anyway, if you go to Washington and you don’t visit the Lincoln Memorial did you really go to Washington?
And if you don’t take a selfie and post it on social media, did it really happen?
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.
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.
I feel like everywhere we go lately we run into an Olmec. It’s weird.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Rockets. Woah.
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)…
But I could have told you how this would turn out…
Yep, with me capturing the exact minute my son decided he didn’t want to be an astronaut after all.
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…
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.
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!
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.
Oh, this. 80’s glam life goals.
Statement Art (obvious)
Statement Art (subtle)
Everyone needs something to believe in. I believe that it’s ok to believe whatever you believe. So go on and believe.
Who’s to say what is art? Art just is.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Newseum is across the street from the old people’s art gallery and it’s a crowd pleaser for any age!
I like the First Amendment so much more than the Second Amendment. And I am allowed to say that.
This is really a fascinating place that combines history with how it’s been documented and announced as it unfolded through the decades.
The Pulitzer Prize Photographs on display brought tears to my eyes. Really and truly a  moving experience.
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.
This is an actual section of the Berlin Wall.  Amazing.
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.
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).
I call this one “boy who is tired of looking at art”.
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).
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.
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.
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).

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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
After you finish digging, you can have lunch at Small Point Cafe. I love this place. Good food, good people, good vibes only.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here’s a good reminder of what needs to happen more.
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????
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
See? You almost expect Roger Williams himself to come galloping down the street on his trusty steed.
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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After that fun-filled day, you might need some tequila. So head back to the Jewelry District and stop at Xaco Taco for tequila.
And tacos. They have tacos too. And they make them in a VW Bus. Of course they do!
If beer is more your thing, you have to check out Bayberry Beer Hall. Great beer, great food, great vibe. Great everything.
I might have been there a time or two with my partner in crime.
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.
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…
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!
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!


Providence awaits! See ya’ll soon!

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.

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…
Yeah, Philly pillows! And other colleges etc. that I don’t care about (but you might).
I always try to make sure my clothing is refreshing.
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.
After our meet up in Chestnut Hill, we headed to Center City and our hotel. We stayed at the Logan, and you should too.
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.
Philly is fun during the holidays because of things like this nice little Winterfest that was happening in front of City Hall.
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).
This is just a reminder to #visitphilly
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.
I’m sure it’s amazing any time of day, but we went at sunset which made it extra amazing.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
All kinds of sundries…
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.
Like these books! I love it when I run into books.
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.
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.
It is absolutely magical.
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.
Loved the view.
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The bar was beautiful. And that’s a $3,400 bottle of cognac.
I opted for the $7 bottle of Yards. Because when I drink, I drink local.
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).
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.
It wasn’t my most inspired run, but it was pretty. Pretty short. Ha ha.
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.
See- it’s very colonial, isn’t it?
Like you could totally darn a flag in front of this fire.
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.
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. 

I see London, I see France…

This Thanksgiving we traded turkey, stuffing, and mashies for wine, cheese, bread and surprisingly good pub food. Bucking tradition to travel this year seemed to be a trend if my friend’s Insta and Facebook feeds are any indication. Lots of people headed north, south, east, and west to celebrate sans pumpkin pie or a doze in front of a football game. We opted to spend a few days in Paris and London before heading down to the middle of France, where we are fortunate enough to have lots of family to spend time with and a house to stay in. Our house doesn’t have wifi or a tv so an extra bonus is that the kids actually have to talk to us! Woohoo!  They pretend to be annoyed by it, but it seems to me like they might actually enjoy our company.  I know–weird, right? Anyway, here are some highlights and recommendations from our latest family adventure.

First of all, fly Iceland Air. It’s usually the least expensive way to get to anywhere in Europe, they have nice new planes, and the Keflavik airport has cool Icelandic gear for sale, and really, really, really expensive but drinkable coffee. This was probably our 12th trip via Iceland, but all we’ve ever seen is the airport. We need to fix that because Iceland is pretty amazing (you can tell from the flyby and also the 20 infomercial “documentaries” available during your flight). Even the safety video is so beautiful it makes you want to stay.
We flew into Paris and stayed overnight with my husband’s cousin. This is the entryway to her apartment. I took a picture of this because I love the floor, and the doors, and also I just love that it’s in Paris.
But then you have to climb 4 flights of these stairs with all your bags because the elevator is only meant for really skinny French people with no luggage.
This is Martine- our welcome committee and the cutest dog in Paris. I am also convinced she can jump higher than any other dog anywhere. She’s like a circus dog. You can’t tell from this picture because she’s pretending to be calm, so you’ll just have to believe me.
Friday mood.
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Rue Montorgueil is my favorite street because there are lots of cafes and restaurants to choose from and if you’re wandering in the middle of the road half-dazed from lack of sleep you won’t get hit by a car because it’s pedestrians only.
We decided to combat our jet lag by walking from Les Halles to the Eiffel Tower – not a short stroll even on your best day, but you get to see lots of Paris landmarks, like the Louvre.
My kids were mortified that I took a picture of this statue because he’s naked but he looked about as tired as I was just then, so I felt like he was a kindred spirit.
The Musée du Quai Branly has an exterior living wall so you can experience something cool as you walk by even if you don’t have time to visit the museum itself.
You even get to see art, like this Olmec piece!
Everyone loves Paris in the springtime, but Fall is pretty great too.
The next morning we headed to the Garre Nord pretty early so we could catch our train to London. Yes, that is a bear with wings. The French are interesting.
We dumped our bags and headed out to explore London town. Wild food and festive aromatherapy- what more could you ask for?
So many pubs, so little time.
Rokit is the best vintage store in London. My daughter loved rummaging through the old t-shirts, shoes, coats and other goodies. I spent most of the time alternating between feeling like I’d found old friends and feeling depressed because vintage now means all things from the 80s.  By default, I think that makes me vintage too. Sigh.
There’s always something to celebrate in London! Girl power! Also, cheese!
Lunch was in a pub. Isn’t this cute? Plus the pints were tasty. And the food was good. Yes, really.  We were the first ones there because we were on Paris time (or Boston time?) and we were hungry!
Every time we visit a different city, or country, or really anywhere that’s not home there seems to be some sort of car show or exhibit happening. Even though my husband is a huge, huge fan of all things automotive he swears this is just a coincidence. But I’m not convinced because it happens every. single.time. Case in point- the Ferrari: Under The Skin exhibit opened at the Design Museum just days before we arrived. I wanted to go there anyway, and I did think this particular exhibit sounded pretty good, so win, win.
This is how Ferrari’s look before they become actual cars.
Ferraris really are beautiful…
Vroom vrrooooom
I love race car driver helmets. I don’t know why, but I do. I also love race car drivers. Have you seen Rush? No? You should, and then you’ll love race car drivers too.
The rest of the museum is worth a look too. I mean, the building alone is an inspiration.
Designer, maker or user- which one are you?
Ah- the design love triangle. Can’t have one without the others…
Design is everywhere and influences everything. Think about that.
Life in a nutshell.
How lucky are you when a really great place like the Union Tavern is right across the street from your hotel? Dinner spot!
Haha- no! We didn’t stay at the Ritz but on our second day we met our friend Paul right outside because it was close to the tube station.
We didn’t even mean to, but we got to see the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace- or more accurately we got to see the backs of heads of tons of people watching the changing of the guards.
Eh, hello there Queen Elizabeth.
We spent some time on the South Bank of the Thames. Insider tip: get the Fast Pass for the London Eye and plan to explore a bit while you wait for your timeslot.
Blue sky and sunshine in London? Yes, it happens!
My daughter would not be happy if she saw this picture, but she’ll never know so…heh heh.  Anyway, this was lunch at Wagamama. I have a hard and fast rule to never eat in a restaurant we can go to at home when we’re away, but everyone loves Wagamama, including me. Rules are meant to be broken anyway, right?
But then when we left Wagamama we saw this place – the British think of everything! Lunch in an igloo? We could have done that! But yet, I wonder how steamy it gets in there with 5 people breathing and eating and etc?
Watercolor view of Big Ben and Parliment. Big Ben was under scaffolding, but still pretty.
I am in love with books. Like completely in love. So, it was really fantastic to discover Books Under the Bridge. A tiny piece of heaven.
Browsing is so much fun…
I also love old maps, and they had loads.
Say hello to Liam Flanagan. He’s living my son’s dream.
We were going to ride some city bikes, but we ran out of time. Good to know they’re here though.
The Brand Academy is definitely worth a stop- chock full of products made by emerging artists and designers. Good stuff!
All the colors.
If I weren’t a procrastinator by nature (and if I’d brought a bigger suitcase) I would have picked up some Christmas gifts…
Holiday market finds- love me some colorful lights.
Here’s Paul! We hadn’t seen him in eons- so it was great to spend the day with him, and get yelled at together by ornery baristas at Nero Coffee.
I actually hate Ferris Wheels and looking up at this extra, extra tall one felt really intimidating BUT…
You can’t skip the London Eye, so up we went!
And it’s so worth it! You get your own personal pod (well shared with like 10 other people) and you feel like you’re headed to outer space.  The views are unparalleled.
Mid-flight selfie fail.
The group below us was having a champagne party. Dang it, we were one pod too early…
Here I am channeling Mary Tyler Moore.
And this is that unparalleled view I was telling you about.
That was fun!
Just walking around is a feast for the eyes, especially when the sky cooperates and gives you this.
You know there aren’t actually phones in these things anymore.
Here’s my pretty little London pic.
Buckingham Palace at sunset…
Shop goals! When I was in the business of flower making I dreamed of having a shop like this…
The kids wanted to know how many pubs we were going to visit. Answer: as many as we could fit in (which was 6 in two days).  When in London…
Being in London near Christmas is extra great because this town takes it’s holidaying to the next level.
It was only November 19 but there were lights and festive decorations everywhere.
It made me feel a little anxious and inadequate actually because I know my own decorating won’t be done til approximately Dec 24th.
Dinner Sunday night was at The Wilmington. We opted for the traditional Roast. I can’t tell you how amazing the food was, you will just have to go and taste for yourself.  Yorkshire Pudding and all the rest.

After London, we headed back to France. I think I’ll share some pics of that in a separate post because this one is getting kind of long, dontcha think? Stay tuned…

Escape to Vermont

If you want to get away from it all for a while, I’ve got the place for you. Head on up to Manchester, Vermont where you can breathe deep and disconnect from everything. I felt lucky that I had minimal cell phone service and no wifi when I was there because it really forced me to enjoy the weekend for what it was- calming, peaceful and oh so far away from the noise and craziness of today’s world.

We started our Saturday with a quick run (well not quick exactly… so let’s just call it a run).
There were lots of roads like this. Naturally, we had to stop a lot (to take pictures you know– not for any other reason like being winded or anything like that- though I will point out that it’s very hilly in Vermont).
Hildene is worth a visit- we reserved some time mid-run to explore the grounds and drink in the breathtaking setting and amazing views.
Views like this.
and this.
Seeing this made me want to learn how to be a dairy farmer and open up a cheese shop.
For certain I’m romanticizing farm life, but how could you not–standing in this spot?
After the run we spent a lot of time drinking coffee and looking out at this. The golden glory of Fall.
Later we headed out for a hike in these ridiculously picturesque woods to work off some of the jitters that were a side effect of a long, lingering morning of coffee drinking.
I feel like a Thoreau quote would be appropriate here.
Like maybe: “I took a walk in the woods, and came out taller than the trees“. I checked afterward, and I was still 5’2, so…maybe I did it wrong?
One of my favorite Thoreau quotes is “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see“.  So don’t just think of these as trees, ok?
We made it to the falls. They were a little less impressive than we’d imagined.
But still, it’s always good to have a destination (and a turnaround point!)
This weekend was actually a book group field trip that we spontaneously decided to do one night after reading a book that was completely unrelated to Vermont or nature in any way. We were missing a bunch of ladies, which was too bad because they’re all pretty awesome and unique and special. I love spending time with women who inspire me.
After we made it out of the woods we stopped at this really fantastic bookstore (Northshire) because we felt it was appropriate for a book club trip and also we needed books. Well, maybe we didn’t need the books, but we wanted them. Anything goes in Vermont.
Manchester has lots of buildings that look like they belong in Vermont.
See what I mean?
And shopping is very cute in Manchester.
Drinking wine and watching the sun sink behind the mountains was alright, I guess.
We went to Gringo Jacks for dinner and it was really good. Funny story: I’ve only been to Manchester one other time, maybe 13 or 14 years ago and I ate dinner here. There are other restaurants in Vermont, I think. But this one has tacos.
Also, it’s cozy and they serve really good margaritas.
On our way home Sunday we stopped at the Vermont Country Deli for the best dang sandwiches around.
They also have lots of other stuff.
Like maple syrup, for example.
Maple wine (um, ok).
Maple seltzer (I’m sensing a theme).
Maple candy. It was only after I left that I remembered my daughter loves these. I didn’t buy any. Oops.
Maple. Maple everything.
So that, in a nutshell, was my weekend escape to Vermont. It was super relaxing. I highly recommend it. Disconnecting is good. Very good indeed.


48 (or so) hours on Long Island

IMG_8984Last weekend some friends and I headed down to Long Island wine country for a little mini-break. None of us had ever been there, but we’d heard good things. And even though we normally plan a bit better, this is such a busy time for all of us that we didn’t put too much thought into the trip. We booked a house but pretty much left the rest of the weekend open to hap and circumstance. I don’t know if it was because of or despite that, but we had an amazing weekend. It is an absolutely beautiful spot to spend time in, and the quality of the wine is very, very good.  And, if you’re not that into wine (um, what??) there are other things to do too–eating, shopping, antiquing, boating, swimming, bike riding, or just lounging– you name it, you can do it on the north fork of Long Island!

I’m going to tell you our story through pictures because I have like 400 of them on my phone.  I may have been a bit snap-happy. But really, you’ll see why now:

It’s a quick ferry ride from New London and if you go in April you won’t have touble finding a seat.
Kontokosta Winery was on the way from the ferry to our rental so we didn’t see any reason not to stop.
I love a beautiful barn, and if there’s wine to drink inside- well then, all the better!
Girls are headed in…
After you!
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The tasting room had us like…
Time to shop!
We met a friend who insisted we pose like this.  It works.
Cabernet Franc is a good way to start off a wine tour- and this one was fantastic. Nice view too…
Fog rolling off the water gave us this view of the barn. Didn’t want to leave, but:
Next stop: our rental. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this cottage.
This place had everything we needed and more- plus was kinda like stepping into a West Elm catalog.
Entry- kick those shoes off and stay awhile!
I like it when there’s a nice bathroom. Bathrooms are important.
My bedroom.
Waking up here was a pleasure (well except for the massive hangover).
First order of business, relaxing on the patio!
Friday night we hit the town in our blazers. Didn’t mean to dress alike, but it is what it is: blazer brigade
Cocktails at American Beech.  We felt like we were in Miami and Tina got attacked by a big palm frond.
Might have overdone in Friday night, but couldn’t miss a beat. First stop Saturday was Croteaux, the rosé winery.  This place was seriously a little slice of heaven.
The wine here was as lovely to drink as it was to look at.
All day.
Cheers to sunny days and the best of friends.
So good. I love rosé when the sun is shining and there’s a Citroen Hvan in the background.
We wanted to sit here but the stools were too tall.
More ambiance at Croteaux. Would have been nice to stay all day BUT…
More wine to try! This is Lenz.
The tasting barn at Lenz.
Lenz has a great old vine 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. Really tasty! Also, their merlot is very good. I don’t usually drink merlot, but this one was pretty inspired.
Lenz vineyard
Lieb was next. I loved this place. It had a great low-key vibe: great staff, live music and more really good wine. Merlot again. Maybe I am a merlot drinker after all.
Listening and tasting at Lieb
It was too nice a day to stay inside so moved to the patio to soak up the sun and enjoy the view. Nice way to wind down the tour.
This is Chris, our driver from North Fork Designated Driver. Best decision we made. He was super nice and we didn’t have to worry about being safe on the roads.
We were probably really annoying.
Saturday night we had dinner at American Beech (which was top notch) and checked out the local bar scene at Brix&Rye and Lucharitos. No pics of that (probably a good thing).  Happy to report we didn’t spend any time inside here.
This is American Beech in the daylight. Great spot!
I loved how the town was cute, with lots to do but not overdone or pretentious.
Thanks for the memories Greenport! We’ll be back for sure.

Silver Linings

map_maine_portlandA few days after the marathon we headed up to Portland, ME. We had been planning to make our annual trek to see Marc’s cousin and his family on Friday, but after everything that had happened on Monday we felt the need to flee. We just wanted to get away from everything- the news, the fb posts, the images that were playing over and over again inside our heads. We had never been to Portland and had always wanted to go. It seemed like a good time to embrace a “why put off til tomorrow what you can do today?” mentality. And it was on the way to Quebec.. well, sort of.

We didn’t make any plans for the two days we would spend there except to book the only hotel we could find in town that had an available room. Spur of the moment trips during a school vacation week leave you with limited options. Lucky for us, the Portland Harbor Hotel was great. My daughter was delighted- when she saw our room she said “this is the best hotel we’ve ever stayed in with walls”. Yes, we have been known to drag our kids to far flung places, often staying in lodging we like to describe as “adventurous”. The kids usually roll with it- never even noticing that there’s anything amiss. The wall-less hut we stayed in during last year’s trip to Mexico registered though, apparently. Don’t worry- it was a nice hut- very nice actually, plus the beach we were situated on was breathtaking and the food served family style was a culinary delight. It was a lovely trip, except that a giant tropical bug crawled in my son’s ear one night while he slept and had to be removed by an EN&T doctor when we got back to Boston, BUT that’s a different story.

AnYWay- back to Portland. We had no idea it was such a foodie hotspot. What a find! We all love to eat!! We soothed our spirits with meal after meal of some of the best Portland had to offer (try Gorgeous Gelato, David’s, Hot Suppa, and the Standard Baking Co if you ever find yourself in Portland) and we savored every moment of our time together. Literally all we did for two days was wander the streets, thinking about where our next meal would be. We held hands, we laughed with the kids, we talked, we listened. We just spent time together. The kids were great – especially considering that aside from a trip to the Children’s Museum we didn’t do much to entertain them. We just wanted to BE. And we were. Portland was good for the soul. Good for us. For the first time in a very long time our only focus was on each other.

It was a quiet, reflective few days. We missed all the madness happening in Boston- we didn’t tune in AT ALL. I didn’t even know the extent of what had happened Thursday night and Friday until we got up to Quebec and heard from Marc’s cousins. And even then, we didn’t talk much about it. It was all still too raw. We were still digesting the event and trying to come to terms with what had happened- to us and everyone else that was there. We were grieving for those that were lost, and those that were suffering so much- who faced such an uncertain future. And we were grieving for Boston. Boston is home. Boston is a huge part of who we are. The main streets and the back allys, the public figures and the neighborhood friends, the landmarks and the hole-in-the-wall eateries, the small celebrations and the big events- we know it all intimately and it belongs to us.

We didn’t do too much in Quebec either. If you’ve been reading for a while you’ll remember what happened last year when we visited. If not, you can read about it here. Well, luckily, nothing like that happened this time. Noone pooped or puked in anyone’s bed, and the weather wasn’t even that bad. Well, considering it was Quebec in April, I mean. The sun even peaked out a little bit. It’s been years since we’ve seen the sun in Quebec! We usually bring the worst kind of weather. But maybe God was smiling down on us.

It was nice to get away for a few days. It didn’t change what happened, and it didn’t make it better. But it made us better. Not totally better- I think that will only come with time- but at least it started us a path that will make us better. Better as indivuals, and better as a family. Maybe that’s the silver lining. You know there always has to be one.

And it only got better from there, folks…

If you read my post from Friday you’ll know that our weekend trip to Quebec didn’t get off to the best start. We resigned ourselves to trading the unseasonably warm, sunny Boston weather in favor of the cold damp April days Quebec offered because we were excited to see my husband’s cousins. It’s an annual trek we all look forward to, because for one, it’s an awesome city- beautiful and chock full of things to do. Plus, the kids love playing together and the adults never fail to have a good time.  During the day there’s always something to do that appeals to everyone, and at night the kids run around like banshees while the adults enjoy long lingering conversations over a dinner table abundant with out-of-this-world food and wine a- plenty. My French isn’t good enough to follow everything, and after a few hours I give up trying and just drink the wine, which is something I always regret doing when I wake up slightly hungover. I then vow not to repeat the next night, but of course I do. Because it’s vacation. And, because it’s fun. And FUN is just what we needed. We were both still beating ourselves up about not running Boston (yep, STILL talking about that- I know it’s starting to get old, but don’t worry once I run NJ in a few weeks I will be cured of the guilt and regret that compel me to mention it every chance I can get). But anyway, that’s exactly how night one progressed.

And you know how that turned out- with our son pooping in their daughter’s bed. It was awesome. Really a great way to start the day on Friday.

Later that morning – after everything had been cleaned and the kids were settled into a controlled state of chaos- my husband went for his long run, and I went for the kind of run you need to cure your sluggish body of the evil you caused it the night before.

It was f’n COLD. And windy. I ran down by the St. Lawrence and the wind was coming at me from three directions. It was raw and grey and just plain nasty. It felt like a punishment and once again I cursed mother nature and myself for not running and GETTING IT DONE on Monday. Oh well..I slogged my way through 7 or so miles which left me feeling better and ready for anything (or so I thought).

We bagged our plans to visit Gros Isle and instead headed to the Aquarium. It was pretty cool- worth checking out if you’re in town. The polar bears were impressive and the sea lions had lots of personality. And, there was a mini version of TreeGO (an obstacle course type adventure playground) which the kids couldn’t get enough of. Even in drenching rain it was fun. Make note: lots of the Aquarium is outside. If you’re with people who live in Quebec and don’t seem to notice inclement weather you won’t be deterred. If you’re like everyone else in the world you might want to wait for a nicer day.

Later that night.. more wine, more food, more conversation that I could only half follow.. yadda yadda. Put the kids to bed. All is well.


I know what you’re thinking- poop again? Well… that would have been awful wouldn’t it? But no, nope, not poop, not this time.  But what then?  What could have happened that would be even worse? Puke you ask? Could it be? Well, why not? At just around 2:00 am everyone in the house was awoken to the sound of my son crying and puking in bed. In the bed we had just cleaned. White sheets, new fluffy duvet.. the works. Yep. Night two was even more exciting and disruptive than night one.  How can this be? Who are these people who bring a pooping, puking maniac to soil the bedsheets at every opportunity?

That would be us.

He wasn’t sick. In fact he didn’t seemed phased at all. In the morning it was my husband and I who hung our heads in shame as another bag of drycleaning was loaded into the car.  Our son continued to race around the house, humming Star Wars songs and demanding snacks every 15 seconds or so (I guess he was pretty hungry after emptying his entire digestive tract onto his cousin’s bed).

That day, after braving the elements to see the waterfall on the north side of the city (luckily a short lived experience as the weather was truly horrendous) we went to the Civilization Museum- also a great place to go when it’s raining.  The exhibits are always interesting and there’s an entire area dedicated to kid stuff- a giant play area complete with costumes and things to climb.  As we walked back to the car the rain turned to sleet and then snow.  Did I ever tell you how much I hate to see snow in April? Well, I hate it.

Anyway.. I’ll fast forward.  We went to bed Saturday wondering if our son was going to produce a hat trick.  What would the late night hours bring us?  We prepared for the worst.  We made him sleep on the bare floor, with nothing to cover him but newspaper.

Ok, we weren’t that cruel, but we did make him sleep in our room with an air mattress and a sleeping bag.  And, sure enough around 3 or 4 am I was jolted awake by the dreaded “mommmmmyyyyy…..” I sprinted out of bed and ran over to him.  He said” I have to throw up!!! “ I grabbed him and ran as fast as I could to the bathroom, heart pounding, sweat breaking out over my brow.  I put him in front of the toilet and forced him to bend over it.  After a few seconds of nothing happening he said “oh, I think maybe I just have to pee”.   So he did, and I brought him back to bed.  That’s it. No accident. So ….that was ok.

On Sunday we left.  Our hosts might have been slightly less sad to see us go than they normally are, but they hid it well.  Maybe they’re devising a scheme to even things out when they come down our way in July.   It poured the entire way home which made for a long ride (the longest 6 hour ride ever, my daughter pointed out) but the kids were actually really good.  Despite what I may have led you to believe, my kids are really quite charrming and fun when they aren’t defecating on your furniture.  It was nice hearing their laughter drift up from the backseat.    And we had a great time telling  jokes and playing trivia.  Gavin progressed from calling the city we’d just visited “Appleback” to learning to say Quebec.  Each kid only asked how much longer about 700 times.

All in all, it was not a bad weekend.  But it sure is good to be home.  And no one woke up last night- for any reason.