Things to Make - Watermelon Mojitos

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Since our trip to New Orleans, I can't stop raving about the watermelon mojitos at Jacques Imos. When I asked our waitress their secret, she said peach rum. So I came home and tried to make my own version. Pretty yummy. If I do say so myself. Here's my imprecise recipe:

INGREDIENTS: 1 small watermelon, 1 bunch of mint, 1 lime, peach rum, ginger ale, ice

1. Slice a small watermelon into medium-sized chunks. Remove the seeds and dump the chunks in a pitcher.

2. Cut up mint (at least 6 sprigs, if not more) and dump in the pitcher.

3. Dump at least a cup of peach rum into the pitcher.

4. Slice up a a lime and add the pieces to the pitcher.

5. Fill up the pitcher with ginger ale (or sprite). You can also add a few tablespoons of sugar, but I found that this made it too sweet.

6. Use a large spoon to muddle. The goal is to have the watermelon become kind of slushy but not completely liquified.

7. Add ice and drink with a straw.


*100 curators in 100 days. So much wonderful art and so fun to look at.

*Ariel nudes. These are amazing.

*If I had long hair I would wear it like this every day. In fact, I sort of want long hair just for this reason.

*Vitali's bathers. I so wish we could afford one of his photos.

*Noemie Goudal.

*A guide to mixing patterns in your home.


Places to Go - Out and About, Museum Edition (July 2012)


The Newseum (Washington DC)
- The Newseum is free for children this summer, so we decided to visit. Turns out the Newseum is ALWAYS free for children under 7. Now we know. Anyways, while this isn't exactly a kids' paradise (seeing the Berlin Wall doesn't inspire awe in those too young to know what it is), there is one floor full of interactive computer games (my kids loved this part) where you can also record your own newscast - this alone is worth the price of admission, especially if you go on a weekday when crowds are absent, as you can record over and over again.

After we finished reporting the news, we took the coolio glass elevator to a wonderful viewing deck on the top floor. The Newseum also houses a 4D movie (included in the price of admission), which looked really promising, but unfortunately a glitch in the operation system kept us from viewing it. Oh well, we still had a great time.


Mini-Golf at the Building Museum (Washington DC) - The Building Museum's new artsy, indoor mini-golf course is pretty fun, for children and adults (even little children). Many of the holes are sort of tricky and some don't make a lot of sense, but I think my kids liked it better that way. Plus the murals are amazing. On the downside, we went on a Tuesday morning and the exhibit was full (with no lines), so I can imagine crowds on weekends.


The Science Museum of VA (Richmond, VA) - I love this place. This summer, an interactive exhibit on How People Make Things entertained the kids for hours - we made dye-cut horses and boxes, spoons from wax, and assembled a car (sort of, T only assembled the steering wheel, apparently tires were not a necessity to him). The museum also has an Imagination Playground set, where the kids created castles and bridges. And, of course, we visited space and learned about various other sciency things. Awesome.


The National Gallery of Art's Sculpture Garden (Washington DC)
- While the girls spent an hour learning about French artists during the National Gallery's FREE Stories in Art program (for our previous post on Stories in Art click here), T and his friend J splashed at the fountain - they spent an hour chasing birds and feeding ducks. Seriously, a whole hour. Apparently toddlers really love a fountain. By the end they were soaking wet but happy (though the security guard looked positively sick of us).


The Hirshhorn's Courtyard (Washington DC) - Famed Chinese Artist Ai Weiwei currently has a huge installation piece in the Hirshhorn's courtyard. And Barbara Kruger's wallpaper-like installation is under construction in the museum's basement (you can already see a lot of it). Both are definitely worth checking out. Especially while the interactive Suprasensorial exhibit is still upstairs (my kids love this exhibit).

Where have you been exploring this summer? We'd love to hear!!


Places to Go (Vacation) - At the Lake (Snowshoe, WV)


Just some snapshots from our weekend at Snowshoe, WV. For more on summer at Snowshoe and their annual local music fest, click here.



*A fascinating graphic on Amazon's success (definitely worth a view).

*A beginner's guide to Alice Munro.

*10 Fascinating Documentaries about the 1 Percent. I really want to see the Queen of Versailles.

*Samm Blake. Wow. Amazing photos. Amazing.

*F. Scott on writing. Here's an excerpt, but the whole thing is really worth reading - "I've read the story carefully and, Frances, I'm afraid the price for doing professional work is a good deal higher than you are prepared to pay at present. You've got to sell your heart, your strongest reactions, not the little minor things that only touch you lightly, the little experiences that you might tell at dinner. This is especially true when you begin to write, when you have not yet developed the tricks of interesting people on paper, when you have none of the technique which it takes time to learn. When, in short, you have only your emotions to sell."

*Daily Candy's favorite online children's boutiques.


Play All Day and a jar full of pop-beads = hours of entertainment back at the condo.


Things to Read - Summer Reading

The Tiger's Wife
- Last year the Tiger's Wife made its way onto almost every "best of" list for the year, no small feat for a 20-something first time novelist. And while I liked it, I didn't quite love it. Though it's stuck with me more than some books that I have loved, probably because I'm still not sure what to make of it. The book consists of three interconnecting stories - (1) the narrator's own personal history, (2) the story of the deathless man (as told by the the narrator's grandfather) and (3) the story of the tiger's wife. I found the story of the deathless man a little overwritten (as in I started skipping words while reading it) and the narrator's story underwritten (undeveloped characters and situations), but the story of the tiger's wife delicately perches itself on the line between fable and reality and never leaves. As all three stories flow in and out of each other it's hard to gain footing for concepts like right and wrong. And fault. which I suppose is the book's real point.

Just Kids
- Patti Smith's autobiography of her move to NYC and her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe (the two were a couple for years before Mapplethorpe came out) reads as a love story to a friend, time, and place. Before reading the book, I never listened to Smith's music and now I can't get enough. I think you sort of fall in love with her while reading her story, she's so likable, especially her whole love of "art" as a concept - something to strive for- rather than fame or money. Anyways, it's a really really good read.

The Good Daughter: A Memoir of My Mother's Hidden Life
- Despite the cheesy title, this was a wonderful biography. The book's author tells the story of her mother's life in Iran, which was fascinating - an arranged marriage at 9 (they waited until she reached 13 to wed), a first baby in her early teens with an abusive husband, divorce (in a culture that doesn't really "do" divorce), training in Europe as a midwife, a second marriage to an alcoholic German, and a grueling life in America. I couldn't put it down.

The Amateur Marriage - Years ago, I tried to read every Anne Tyler book I could find. Then I sort of forgot about her for awhile. So I was pretty happy that the library had this book on CD for the long drive to Snowshoe, WV and it didn't disappoint. Tyler always does a wonderful job writing books that are both easy to read and wonderful portraits of family life and the fragile bonds that hold relationships together. The Amateur Marriage tells the story of a mismatched couple who never learned to work well together (Tyler switches the perspective every chapter, so you can relate to both characters). Eventually the couple has three children one of whom, in high school, runs away from home. You spend the rest of the novel wondering if she'll ever return and if she does, what her homecoming will be like. It's all rather heartbreaking, but still wonderful to read.

If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home - This book paints an amazingly detailed portrait of how different rooms and habits have evolved over time. Sometimes boring, sometimes fascinating, it truly changed my perspective on how people eat, sleep, and clean. For example, did you know that up until very recently people avoided eating raw fruit and veggies (because of dangers associated with poorly washed greens)? Or that the Tudors had no idea what they looked like as mirror didn't exist? Or that urine was considered a prized stain-remover right into the twentieth century? I could go on and on. Tons of random, quirky facts.

Tracey Emin
- I first encountered Tracey Emin in 2003 when I spent a semester of law school in London. I saw Emin's unmade bed in the Saatchi gallery and, while bold, I never quite "got" it. Her sex-infused work continues to receive praise and media attention, but I still don't quite understand what all the fuss is about. So I decided to read her autobiographical book. The essays go quickly (I finished it in two days) and though intriguing at first Emin's themes became old after awhile - she likes to drink herself into oblivion and have lots of sex and abortions are emotionally draining but she knows she'd be an awful mother - i get it already. or maybe i don't get it. whatever.


Places to Go (Vacation) - Frontier Culture Museum (Staunton, VA)


This year, on our way back from Snowshoe, West Virginia, we decided to stop at the Frontier Culture Museum - located about three hours from DC off Highway 81. I wasn't sure exactly what to expect, but we needed to stretch our legs for awhile. Luckily, this place is incredible.

The Frontier Culture Museum is what Epcot's World Showcase could be if Disney ditched all the gift stores and actually tried to teach us something about the world (as previously noted, I'm not Epcot's biggest fan). At the Frontier Culture Museum the "world" also includes a time machine, which transported us back to Europe (and Africa) in the late 1600s - we visited England, Germany, and Ireland while meandering past beautiful streams and ponds. Costumed guides talked to us about daily life - from farm animals to looms. The kids loved asking questions and almost every house had something for them to "play" with (P loved the brooms for some reason). You're encouraged to look around and touch everything - the kids seemed fascinated by the "toilet bowls" under every bed.

After we finished touring the globe, we visited different periods in American history. The earliest house (a log cabin) demonstrated life in the 1740s, from there we checked out an 1820s farm. Though we didn't have time to visit it, an 1850s farm resides across the street. And an American Indian exhibit is under construction.

I honestly cannot say enough good things about this place. We visited on a 100 degree day and still spent almost 3 hours traversing the non-air-conditioned grounds, which really says a lot.

The museum is open from 9 am to 5 pm seven days a week. Admission is $10 for adults and $6 for children aged 6-12. For more information, click here.


First stop - Africa. The small doors were built for safety reasons (harder to invade). And those thatched roofs survived the big storm that took down most of VA's power lines. Pretty impressive.


Next stop - England. P checked out every chest and the kitchen was hot hot hot. We didn't last long inside. Luckily the grounds are lovely, tons of green space and small streams.


Ireland was probably our favorite stop. The loom really impressed the kids - they asked question after question. And P decided to clean the house (too bad she never does this at home).


We all loved the "funny" German shoes. And the hats.


We ended our tour in America, pretty exhausted from walking over a mile in high heat. The American section of the museum houses three different estates (1740s, 1820s, and 1850s). We spent almost all of our time at the pretty large 1820s estate, where tons of yard games entertained my children. We also checked out the early american schoolhouse (pictured above).

After America, we took the shuttle back to the visitor's center and modern-day life. And everyone (except me) slept for most of the 3 hour drive home. A wonderful afternoon. If you're ever in the area, I HIGHLY SUGGEST a visit to the Frontier Culture Museum.


Things to Make - Rainbow Transfer Drawings



We learned about rainbow transfers on The Chocolate Muffin Tree (lots of good stuff over there). This is an easy and fun project that requires almost no materials - great for entertaining the kids while you make dinner.

Here's the scoop:

- Oil pastels (we use these) or crayons (though oil pastels work much better), plain white paper, and a pencil.

1. Fold the paper in half as if you're making a greeting card.

2. On the inside of the "card" (where the message usually goes) color with the oil pastels, make sure to fill up all of the space.

3. Close the card and draw a picture on the "front" using the pencil. Make sure to press down hard.

4. Now open the card and inside you'll have a rainbow drawing. Like magic.


When the kids finished rainbow transferring they colored their hands for awhile.


Places to Go - Three Great Art Experiences for Kids - Pirates of Penzance, A Family Sculpture Making Class, and Portrait Making


1. Family Sculpture Classes at the Artisphere

On Sunday afternoon, F and I headed over to Arlington's Artisphere for a family sculpture making class. F loves art, so I assumed she'd love creating with me, but when we arrived the instructors announced we would be working with wire, Calder-style. "I hate wire", F stated. Ugh. So she tried, then she cried. Luckily Peter Krsko (one of our instructors) SAVED THE DAY. He looked at her drawing, he listened to her ideas, and he helped her sculpt her vision. She smiled, she laughed, she added more details, and, finally, she proclaimed herself "an artist." Success!!

If you're interested, another class takes place on Sunday, July 29th, tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for kids. Children over 2 years of age are invited to attend, but personally I'd recommend the class for kids aged 4 and up. Toddlers with wire could be a little iffy ("you'll poke your eye out!"). Click here for more information.

The Artisphere also offers a Plushie Design class for children and families on August 19th and September 9th. I'm hoping to attend, as both the girls would LOVE to design their own stuffed animal.

F's Review (Age 6.5)
- At first, I was pretty bad but then I started getting the hang of it. And I really started liking it. The teachers were really nice. After the class we walked around [the Artisphere] and I really liked looking at the sculptures.


2. Create a Portrait at the Artisphere - FREE!!!

After our art class, F and I wandered around the Artisphere for awhile. Have you been yet? This place is AMAZING!! Sort of like a small, non-intimidating, somewhat interactive art museum (with lots of comfy chairs). We checked out wonderful sculptures and video art, then we headed to the mezz gallery where an interactive/display project is ongoing until August 18th. In the exhibit, the artist, Kevin Krapf, invites visitors to use a double-sided table to create simultaneous portraits with friends. Visitors can then hang up their art for display. The artist will select some of the drawings as inspiration for his paintings. Art supplies and paper are provided. I think kids would love this project. So if you've been looking for an opportunity to check out the Artisphere, this is it!!

Further, a nature area/bridge is accessible through the building - a great way to view the Rosslyn skyline while checking out some beautiful flowers.

The Artisphere is open:
Wed-Fri 4 pm - 11 pm
Saturday noon - 11 pm
Sunday noon - 5 pm.

Free parking is available after 5 pm and all day on weekends. SO GO!!!


3. Encore Theater's Production of The Pirates of Penzance

On Friday night, the girls and I attended Encore's production of the Pirates of Penzance at Thomas Jefferson Theater. Usually Encore's productions feature a cast composed entirely of child actors. This play was a little different in that adults and children both appeared on stage and the two lead roles were played by seasoned stage actors.

Regarding production quality, I cannot say enough good things - the singing and dancing was superb, nothing "amateur" about it. As were the costumes and sets (especially the boat that actually moves!). A grand spectacle. My only (minor) complaint being that the acoustics of TJ's theater are not the best (it was often hard to understand the lyrics).

Regarding the play itself, I know it is currently trendy to revive these old plays (the original production premiered in 1879). And I know I seem like a PC stick-in-the-mud but they just seem so sexist and dated. The first act of the play involves the main character yelling at his nurse for not being pretty enough, yes it's somewhat funny, but not necessarily child-friendly. Though F did whisper to me "I hate mean boys who only care if a girl is pretty, they'll never be happy because they ignore the important stuff, like love." Luckily, the play includes some modern updates - in particular a HYSTERICAL scene in which the captain laments on modern day politics (the play is worth seeing for this scene alone, I wish I could you-tube it).

Regarding the rest of the plot, the theater recommends the play for children 6 and over and I'd take their recommendation seriously. The whole leap year debacle (the pirate is indentured until his 21st birthday, but since he was born on leap year, that won't happen until he's pretty old) completely went over P's head (I tried to explain it in whispers, but wasn't quite successful).

Anyways, if you can get over hang ups about sexism that passed for comedy in the nineteenth century, the production itself is absolutely beautiful and well worth the price of admission. A gem.

The show runs through next weekend at the following times:

Thursday, July 26 8 pm
Friday, July 27 8 pm
Saturday, July 28 2 pm and 8 pm
Sunday, July 29th 2 pm

Tickets are $10 for children and $15 for adults. Click here for additional information.

F's Review (Age 6.5)
- I liked the play because it was jolly and it told you about the old-fashioned days and ways. I also liked it because the Captain was funny. I really liked the scenery and costumes. And I loved the singing and dancing. I didn't like that the characters didn't come out in costume after the play.

P's Review (Age 5.5)
- I liked that the girls in the play were brave and wore pretty dresses. I didn't like that the main pirate was mean to his maid and only cared about how people looked. I liked the costumes. I also thought the main character really should have understood how his birthday worked.


Things to Do - Grateful List (June 2012)


*Attending God of Carnage at Signature Theater
*Starships by Nicki Minaj (for children's dance parties)
*F's love of the Boxcar Children and Junie B. Jones
*Listening to LP's Into the Wild
*Watching Young Adult
*Watching Brave in the theater (with the kids)
*Reading Exposed by Emily Gould (NY Times, May 25, 2008)
*Reading West with the Night
*Perusing 500 Great Books by Women: A Reader's Guide

*Dan's birthday cake for T (with homemade buttermilk frosting)
*Dan's weekend farmers' market dinners

*New clothes from the Gap and Old Navy (I love online shopping)
*Spray sunscreen
*T's new Jake and the Neverland Pirates boat (for this birthday)


*Four generations of Dan's family feeding the ducks together in Richmond
*Bluemont Park (Arlingon, VA)
*Madison Manor Park (Arlington, VA)
*A pond full of frogs at Potomac Overlook Park (Arlington, VA)
*Nice days without crowds at the National Zoo (Washington DC)
*A last minute wine bar date night (always friend your babysitter on facebook)
*Fishing at Hains Pt for Father's Day (Washington DC)

VACATION (New Orleans)

*Watermelon mojitos at Jacque Imos
*Blackened redfish at Coop's Place
*Sleeping in, reading books, playing cards, and lounging around
*Confederacy of Cruisers Bike Tour
*Drinks on the Balcony Bar (Magazine Street)
*Live music, good food, and multiple Pimms' Cups at the Three Muses (Frenchmen Street)
*A shopping and spa day on Magazine Street
*Doobie Brothers' covers on Bourbon Street


*L - "Jesus chose to die for our sins" P - "But they killed him, so I don't get how he choosed anything." L - "P, don't say that. Jesus is really important, he's our savior" P - "well, I'm sure it is true and makes sense and everything, I'm just saying i don't UNDERSTAND it. but i'm sure it makes sense. i guess."
*When P and her friends include T while playing Barbies
*Religious conversations with P over dinner - "of course there's a god otherwise who invented people, the sky, and houses?" [houses?]
*P - "Mommy, can I have a dollar to give to great grandma?" me - "why?" P - "well, she's old and doesn't work, so she must need a dollar."
*F and P writing and performing an anniversary song for Dan and me
*All day playdates with P's best friend, L, throughout June
*"Mommy, can I do a flip on you?" - T
*"Get messy, get dirty, make mistakes - that's what my mom likes to do. she's not the kind of mom who's like 'be fancy' or 'don't get your clothes dirty'." - F
*P and P wearing blue dresses to play Revolutionary War
*P's earthworm pets - Lazy Bazy and Squirmy Wormy
*me - "F, I'm going to miss you when you grow up, you have to talk to me all the time." F- "you mean on facebook?"
*T always saying "it happens" ("mommy, I sorry I spilled my milk, but it happens")


F - My family, Cybil Lily, feeding ducks, Grandma's house, T's birthday, great grandma visiting, studying, school, the pool, summer vacation and spending more time with my mom, father's day, workbooks, the slip and slide

P - Great grandma visiting, ducks, your anniversary, cake, T's birthday, water balloons, playdates with E, our pink bedroom, T finally having his own my little pony set, art, drawing, chocolate chips, friends coming over, going places, the library, the pool, the playground, my stuffed animals, the slip and slide, sort of Brave but it was a little too scary, swimming

T - my new trucks, grandma's house, great grandma, my guns, my dollies, my big boy bed, my fishing rod, pink sheet


Places to Go - Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens (Washington DC)


Kenilworth may be DC's best kept secret. We visited in the morning on a not-too-hot day and beautiful water flowers dominated the landscape. Millions of them. It's sort of incredible (though we needed bug spray). Despite Kenilworth's remarkableness very few people ever go here - possibly because the garden's location resides somewhat off the beaten path in NE DC.

After we finished strolling through the water gardens, a boardwalk took us into wetlands where we searched for frogs, ducks, turtles, and heron. Also on site, a small nature center contains information about the history of the gardens, a lilypad kids' table, and a 3D wall (unfortunately, no books or toys were out when we visited).

As amazing as this place is, my kids never seem to love it like I do. They'll meander for awhile, but the flowers bore them pretty quickly. Their apathy confuses me - they LOVE Huntley Meadows (and can spend hours there), but something about Kenilworth doesn't appeal to them. Maybe because the flowers tower over them? Has anyone else tried visiting with kids? How did your kids react?

During the summer the gardens are open from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Click here for additional information.

Further, this Saturday (July 21st), a water flower festival is taking place from 11 am to 6 pm. According to the park's website, "Come for exhibits, arts, family activities and special tours that have an Asian/African theme this year. All celebrate water flowers. Call the park for more information on photo contest, activities at (202) 426-6905."



Things to Make - Cardboard Boats

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This is another one of F's projects. While unloading the groceries F noticed that the Trader Joe's tomato packaging looks like a boat. So the kids painted their boats (only the inside, for reasons I don't really understand). Then we made flags out of construction paper and attached the flags to plastic straw poles using tape. We cemented the straws with air dry clay. Ideally, we would have waited at least a few hours for the clay to dry, but the kids wanted to play RIGHT AWAY. Imaginary rivers arose from blue construction paper and Star Wars figurines manned the sail. A good day, until T decided to put his boat in real water - it didn't last long. Next time we'll try to create with something waterproof. So go our summer days . . .

What have you been making this summer? I'd love to hear!

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Places to Go - The National Zoo in Summer (Washington DC)


In my opinion, the National Zoo in summer has an undeserved bad reputation. Yes, it is incredibly hot. But, unlike in the spring, the summer months bring fewer visitors - some days you practically have the whole place to yourself. So you can meander in the air-conditioned animal houses - watch the naked mole rats frolic, hope that the alligators move, wonder if the turtles still like each other, etc.

Ideally we try to visit in the morning, park in lot D at the bottom of the big hill and treat the zoo as a playground - the kids can spend and hour or so jumping on the bouncy pizza and running through the hamster tunnels. When they're ready to see animals - the kids' farm and the rainforests of Amazonia fill up the rest of our morning. And if you get hot? Misters and ice cream are scattered throughout the park. Wonderfulness.

If you're interested, the grounds of the zoo stay open from 6 am to 8 pm in summer (the buildings remain open from 10 am to 6 pm). Admission is free, but parking costs $16 for three hours. If you plan to visit more than a few times I highly recommend purchasing a membership, which comes with free parking and free cookies every visit. For more info, click here.


*As many of you know, I also post at Land of Nod. Last week, Land of Nod hosted a giveaway - in order to enter you had to mention your favorite post from the past year. I just wanted to say thanks so much to everyone who voted for my posts. It really means a lot!! And if you've never checked out Land of Nod's blog, click here and peruse for awhile - a lot of wonderful ideas from some wonderful bloggers!!

*Disney Princesses from Least to Most Feminist - do you agree?

*The Wise Hummingbird recently started posting again - lots of good stuff. Make sure to check it out!!

*I love this floral gradient - wouldn't this be a fun project to try with kids?


Who doesn't want to play hide and seek in a giant olive?


Farm animals and misters = a happy summer.


Places to Go (Vacation) - New Orleans, Part III - Out and About


I thought I'd take a ton of pictures in New Orleans, but I never really felt comfortable bringing the DSLR out to bars at night, which makes me a little sad because I feel like the pics I did take really don't capture a lot of our trip.

But on the other-hand, it really felt great to put the camera down for a few days. So goes life.

HAPPY FRIDAY EVERYONE!! This is the last of the New Orleans' posts, next week back to reality (and kids).


*One living room 9 different ways. Sort of interesting to see each resident's unique style and ideas.

*The Columbia Pike Documentary Project - great photos of my neighborhood.

*Wrong Century - odd how our perception of beauty fluctuates with time.

*The fantastic machine that found the Higgs Boson - looks like something out of a science fiction film (link via Solstice).


This is us, relaxed.


Our fancy dinner with average food.


Some of the tombstones in these old cemeteries are so sad. Like the one above. Heart-wrenching.


The waterfront.


Apparently hipsters are not welcome. So be careful.


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