Things to Do - Best Friends and Random Links

untitled (2 of 60).jpg

untitled (9 of 60).jpg

untitled (16 of 60).jpg

* I'm sort of obsessed with Julie Blackmon - her newest project has me swooning.

* Tori Amos' Top 100 songs, whether you agree or disagree with the rankings, there's some serious nostalgia in this list. I'm happy that Cooling made the top 10.

* This is a big deal, literally.

* A Siberian river.

* Best indie movies of 2013 (so far), so NO rocked (though I'm rather enamored with most Gael García Bernal movies), not sure what to make of The Place Beyond the Pines, and can't wait to see Frances Ha and Before Midnight.

* Depressed Disney royalty. I love these more than I can say. It's hard to choose, but Snow White is probably my favorite. What is your favorite?

* The best books on writing, NYC, and more.

untitled (34 of 60).jpg

untitled (7 of 12).jpg


Places to Go - Out and About Summer 2013, Part II - Local Wanderings


1. Claude Moore Colonial Farm's Summer Market Fair (McLean, VA) - We barely ever miss one of these. The shade keeps the heat from overwhelming.


2. US Botanical Gardens (Washington DC) - Did anyone really doubt that we'd be outside waiting for the gardens to open so we could see (and smell) the world's stinkiest flower at full bloom? Unfortunately, we still missed the stench (I guess the odor doesn't last very long).


Luckily, even without the odor of a dead elephant to brighten our visit, the botanical gardens are always a good time.


3. Mt. Vernon (Alexandria, VA) - T and I spent a ton of time here while the girls attended farm camp. Coco attempted to befriend the sheep (Mt. Vernon allows leashed dogs to visit, which is pretty awesome).


During the summer, Mt. Vernon offers 45 minutes sightseeing cruises from its dock for only $10 ($6 for children 6-12). Click here for times and additional information.


4. Adventure Park, USA (New Market, MD) - Sort of like Chuck E. Cheese meets the County Fair. The kids loved it. And unlimited laser tag is pretty awesome, even when only 4 people play. Click here for more information. (We went because of a Living Social deal, hopefully they'll offer more of these).


P missed the roller coaster cut-off by less than an inch. They're picky like that.


5. George Washington's Gristmill and Distillery(Alexandria, VA)
- The whiskey tour bored T, but the water wheel enchanted him. "When can we go back, mom? When? Can they turn it on for longer next time?" The tour is free with paid admission to Mt. Vernon. Click here for more info.


Things to Make - Hannah Hoch Inspired Collages


(All of the book photos are of Hoch's works)

Lately, I've become somewhat obsessed with the photomontages of the late German artist, Hannah Hoch. So I saved up some old magazines, catalogs, and photographs to craft Hoch-based collages with the girls. After I showed the girls a book of her work (and kept it open on the table for inspiration), we had a great time cutting out images (esp. different facial features) and creating our own masterpieces. We're not quite as good as Ms. Hoch, but at least we keep trying.



I love how F made a hat out of a picture of dolls.


Places to Go - Out and About Summer 2013, Part I - The National Mall

We've spent some time this summer on the National Mall (free museums are a huge perk of living in the DC area) sometimes with the camera, sometimes without the camera. All three kids are FINALLY old enough to understand the no touch rules of museums (even though they still forget from time to time). Here is a list of some of the new exhibits and places we've explored:

What are your favorite places on the mall?


1. The Smithsonian's Freer Gallery of Art - This was our first time at the Freer, which had several crazy old breakable objects on pedestals (so be careful). Lots of the art looked a little scary, but detailed and beautiful as well, especially the gigantic statues carved from wood that line the museum's corridors. T liked finding all the old swords and knives with intricately carved handles. And we all were a little enchanted with the peacock room, as we debated what it would be like to eat dinner in such fine surroundings. A beautiful courtyard sits in the middle of the museum, but, unfortunately most of it is blocked off.


2. The Hirshhorn's Over, Under Next - Exhibits in Mixed Media - This temporary exhibit runs through September 8 and has a few quirky pieces kids will love. All the kids and their friends couldn't stop giggling as they put on white booties over their shoes to walk on a floor made of beeswax in a room full of fluttering post it notes, cabbage, and snails. We also enjoyed Nick Cave's bunny tree with legs and a greek goddess-type statue surrounded by laundry. It's especially fun to to try and guess the materials that compose each artwork (lots of unconventional stuff).


3. The Hirshhorn's Peter Coffin Here & There
- The Hirshhorn has some wonderful kid-friendly stuff on view this summer (of course, this is my favorite museum on the mall, so I tend to oversell it). This exhibit in particular is worth the trek downtown. The huge, lifelike black dog amused all the children, as did the courtyard's circular staircase leading nowhere. But my favorite exhibit (perhaps ever) was where Coffin used a variety of paintings from the museum's permanent collection and created a projected video animation/light show around them in the museum's basement. Suddenly flowers grew out of nowhere and spinning lights began to encircle an austere lady's profile. Haunted house meets art museum. Wonderful. Though T and P found the whole thing scary (sound effects accompany the dark lighting) and booked it to the gift shop. The exhibit runs through October 6.


4. The Smithsonian Natural History Museum's Human Origin Exhibit - By the time we reached the Natural History museum all the kids were fading, so we made a quick circuit through the human origins exhibit. Everyone had a blast learning what they'd look like as an early human.

5. The Smithsonian American History Museum - I didn't bring my camera for our visit, but we had a great time. Immediately upon walking into the museum (through the Constitution avenue entrance) the kids spotted Harry Potter's cape from the movie. Magic. Although HALF OF THE MUSEUM is closed for renovations until 2015 (including all of the kids' discovery rooms), we still enjoyed: learning about the history of American food (a huge table with spinning platters kept the youngest children entertained), "riding" the Chicago L train, guessing all movie clips in the transportation exhibit, learning about Golden Books, seeing the first Apple computer and Abraham Lincoln's top hat, gasping at the star spangled banner's hugeness, and dreaming of fancy events while viewing the first ladies' ball gown collection.

Upon our arrival at the museum, a costumed actor took us back to the late 1860s to teach us about the museum's origins and electromagnetism. Further, another costumed actor brought back the civil rights movement as she staged a lunch counter protest. Hopefully the museum continues to have several character actors wondering its hallways, as it really does bring the whole experience alive for children (and adults).

I asked the kids about their favorite exhibits, here's the list:

F (age 7.5)
* "The walls of notes" (Over, Under, Next's beeswax room in the Hirshhorn)
* Dorthy's ruby red slippers (Smithsonian American History museum)
* The first ladies' dresses (Smithsonian American History museum)
* Harry Potter's cape (Smithsonian American History museum)

P (age 6.5)
* The first ladies' dresses (Smithsonian American History museum)
* Gabby Douglas's leotard (Smithsonian American History museum)
* Becoming a caveman (Smithsonian Natural History museum)

T (age 4)
* The giant dog (the Hirshhorn's Peter Coffin exhibit)
* The Yellow ladders and stuff hanging from the ceiling (Hirshhorn's Over, Under, Next exhibit)

Me (age 37)
* The light installation in the Hirshhorn's basement (Peter Coffin exhibit)
* Huge statues carved from wood (the Freer Gallery of Art)
* The peacock room (the Freer Gallery of Art)
* The first Apple computer (Smithsonian American History museum)
* The history of Golden Books (Smithsonian American History museum)


Things to Do - Grateful List (July 2013)

untitled (13 of 27).jpg

untitled (20 of 27).jpg

untitled (6 of 27).jpg

* Reading The Woman Upstairs and The Flamethrowers: A Novel
* Immogen Cunninghamn's photos
* Gwyneth Glyn at the Folklife festival (most beautiful voice ever)
* Listening to Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zero's new album, Better Days
* Watching Great Gatsby at the Cinema Drafthouse (this might be the best movie I've seen in years, I have no idea why the critics shunned it, both Dan and I found it mesmerizing, especially Leo)
* Listening to Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity (book on tape) during our roadtrip to NYC
* Our whole family's obsession with the Cups song

* Gwyneth Paltrow's fried zucchini pasta
* Homemade peach ice cream
* Margie's pistachio/mint pasta
* Watermelon (we practically live on it)
* Daily recipes from Arcadia's farm camp (esp. garbonzo bean/walnut/pesto dip)
* Rasika with Alison
* My herb garden (all the rain is causing a summer of fantastic food)

* Beaver sighting on a rainy day at the zoo with friends
* Our super cheap apartment pool membership (we love it there)
* The zipline playground at Madison Community Center (we spent a lot of time here waiting for Art Camp to end)
* The Navy museum with T
* Stories in Art at the National Gallery (Winslow Homer) - all three kids are old enough to go now, Yay!!
* Baltimore Museum of Industry (Baltimore, MD)
* An afternoon at the Building Museum with Julia and Tracie - concert/ Work, Play Build/ Building Zone/ mini golf/ BBQ


* "Mom, it's just sort of awkward when a 36 year old woman sings baby you're a firework." - F, trying to shut me up
* P reading to T (particularly the Cowgirl Kate and Coco books)
* Journal time
* T and Claire's "band"
* A full week of happy hours and MNOs - thank you Liz, Christi, Beth, Alison, and Jennifer
* T, as soon as Claire walks in the house, "want to go downstairs and check on our baby?"
* T's new pirate and batman costume (thank you, Ann!)
* F to T - "I wasn't punching you, I was shoving you gently to protect my personal bubble."
* My badly organized but still successful "summer stars" rewards program for the kids (the girls earned razor scooters and T earned a new gun through helping me out at home)
* A successful DOUBLE sleepover (both F and P invited a friend), I guess it won't be long until we stat hosting triples
* Obama's Trayvon Martin speech
* A great night out at Clare and Don's with Beth and Cathi
* A wonderful month of camps - art camp[F], gymnastics camp[P], farm camp[P and F], and preschool camp[T]

VACATION (Snowshoe, WV for the 4th of July and NYC)
* Geocache/hike around Shaver Lake (Snowshoe, WV)
* Our tour of the NRAO (National Radio Astronomical Observatory) (Green Bank, WV)
* Channeling our inner Gatsby at Coe Hall (Long Island, NY)
* Central Park zoo's sea lion show (NYC)
* Northlandz HOME OF THE WORLD'S LONGEST MODEL TRAIN (Flemington, NJ) - this place was amazing!!


F - a great hike, Snowshoe, our family, a nice house to live in and food to eat, a great vacation [at Snowshoe], playdates, E coming over, the library, that we have everything we need/actually a little more than we need, visiting Hannah and her parents, a great vacation in NYC

P - bungee jumping, rock climbing, geocaching, Snowshoe with grandmad and grandpa, my friends times a zillion because I love them so much, ice cream, going to the pool, summer vacation, my sleepover with P, art, my family, visiting Hannah

T - my family, grandma's house/hotel in Snowshoe, P letting me play with her toys, the playground, a nice house to live in and food to eat, playing with Hannah

untitled (21 of 27).jpg


Things to Do - 12 in 12 (August 2013)

August 12, 2013 was a busy day. Also a good one. Scroll down to see our "ordinary day" (not sure any day is ever ordinary during summer vacation), then check out Not-So-SAHM and Where the Watermelons Grow for more everyday awesomeness.

untitled (1 of 200).jpg

10:00 am - A slow start day. Still in our pjs and finally eating breakfast.

untitled (11 of 200).jpg

10:30 am - Getting ready in their new pretty dresses (I love a sale).

untitled (16 of 200).jpg

11:30 am - We pick up some friends and arrive at the National Mall.


12:30 pm - After exploring Asian art at the Freer Gallery, we head to the Hirshhorn's sculpture garden and try to guess the statues' names/inspirations.

untitled (62 of 200).jpg

1:00 pm - Checking out the Over, Under, Next exhibit at the Hirshhorn (more on this next week).

untitled (126 of 200).jpg

2:30 pm - Channeling our inner caveman at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. Doesn't F make the cutest neanderthal?

untitled (131 of 200).jpg

3:00 pm - After a whole morning together, the girls want a playdate, so we head to my friend's house.


3:30 pm - T mans the cash register while the adults drink dark and stormies (how did I not know that this is the best drink ever?)

untitled (147 of 200).jpg

4:00 pm - Everyone is obsessed with Harry Potter lately. Lots of magic going on.

untitled (152 of 200).jpg

5:30 pm - Back home. I thought the kids would be fussy, but they all end up reading books in the living room, too tired to ask for anything else.

untitled (170 of 200).jpg

6:30 pm - I remember that our library books are overdue, so we scooter over, stopping at the playground on the way home.

untitled (194 of 200).jpg

8:30 pm - The kids camp out in our bedroom for a TV show before bedtime.


Things to Make - Homemade Charades


Lately, we've attempted to incorporate more family game nights into our evenings, with mixed results. All three kids play at such different levels and I can only participate in so much Candyland or Chutes and Ladders before I feel like banging my head against a wall. During Cranium the other night, Dan and I noticed that the kids really enjoy acting things out, charades style. Unfortunately, there are few games that contain common references the whole family knows. So we decided to create our own version.

I cut cards out of an old Trader Joe's bag (paper would (obviously) also work, but I was trying to use up some of our recyclables). Then I wrote categories on the cards and asked the kids to fill them in. Nobody seemed very interested at first, so I filled in several. Then we started playing (without teams, just sort of randomly). And the results were awesome. After noting the category was "a person", P walked around the house with her nose in a book until everyone started yelling "MOM! You're acting like mom!" Then after explaining he was a "thing", T plopped himself on the floor until we all figured out he was a boat; actually I gave a lot of hints for that one (I usually know the answer as I have to read T the cards and sometimes P, so I can't exactly "play"). Anyways, we couldn't stop laughing. And F silently singing Firework while mimicking explosions is simply priceless.

Now I try to always have a few blank cards on the table, so when the kids think of something funny, they can add to the bag.

Not the world's most original game, but an easy (and cheap) way to have some end of summer fun (especially since the rain and mild temps make pool-going difficult).

Anyone have any good boardgame suggestions for players ranging in ages from 4 -7.5? I've heard Quirkle is fun.

Also, for more homemade game ideas, check out these past posts:

* The Penny Game
* Alphabet Bingo
* Memory Cards (through Pinhole Press)


Well, at least T attempted to write "cowboy" himself.


I can't remember what the girls were miming, but they sure had a great time with it.


It took T a few seconds to get the hang of things, but then he really let his inner star shine through.


Things to Do - Random Links

untitled (4 of 48).jpg

* A Monday, or any random day, in Kabul

* BronyCon. I don't understand. But at least the homemade costumes are creative.

* Anyone have an extra $1.5 million? And just in case you need more nostalgia, here goes.

* Pretty.

* Maybe getting old isn't so bad after all.

* I'm in love with this home.


Things to Read - Chapter Books for Kids - Wonder

untitled (109 of 111).jpg

F is my kid who loves to read, almost too much. The other day at a children's birthday party I found her in a corner with a book. Seriously? Actually, I probably spent most of my childhood in corners with books, apparently antisocial tendencies run in our blood.

Anyways, F loves Junie B Jones, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Judy Moody, and the overwhelming number of offshoot series these books seem to have generated (the Stink Series, the Dork Diaries, etc.). And while this is all fine and good, I suggested that maybe she could try reading something a little less sarcastic for a change (i.e. a book where the sole purpose is not making fun of life, school, adults, friends, etc).

A neighbor recommended the book, Wonder and F practically inhaled it. Now she can't stop talking about it. So I asked if I could interview her for the blog about why she loved Wonder so much, here's what F had to say:

Me: Please tell me about the book.
F: It's about this boy with a deformed face and it's all about everybody getting used to it and learning how to be nice to him. His name is August.

Me: What did you like about the book?
F: I really liked that August had a bunch of adventures and he even disobeyed some rules but at the end of the year he got an award for being the kindest boy in the school, kind of the best. Usually he got in trouble because someone was making fun of him but he learned how to stand up for himself. And i also liked how one of August's friend's, Jack, even though he once said something really mean, he realized how sorry he was.

Me: That sounds like a sad book.
F: It was both funny and sad. It was funny when they go camping and pee on trees. It had a lot of parts that made me laugh.

Me: Anything else you want to say?
F: All of the book is about August, but some of the chapters are told by his friends and family. I really liked the book because it shows that no matter what you should always try to get along with people and stand up for yourself, even if you have to break some rules sometimes.

Me: Would you like to read more books about August?
F: Yes, I really liked him.

Does anyone have any suggestions for similar books? Before bedtime, Dan's been reading Little House on the Prairie to the kids and their response has been somewhat lackluster, with comments like "their lives seem really boring and hard." But he's pushing through and they're slowly learning to love the story. Anyways, we could use some good new books around here. I think I need to scan the archives of this blog for awhile (great suggestions over there).


Places to Go (Vacation) - The WORLD'S LARGEST (and coolest) MODEL RAILROAD (Northlandz in Flemington, NJ)


As you all probably know by now, I love to drag my children to off the beaten path attractions. But even I had doubts as I drove through the back roads of New Jersey to reach Northlandz, home of the world's longest model railroad. The traffic leaving NYC had been bumper to bumper and we were all pretty tired and cranky as a result, with all three kids complaining "where are we going now, can't we just go home?" Luckily, I stuck with the plan because Northlandz might just be the coolest place we've gone this summer.

Upon entering a large and rather nice looking building, we bought tickets for both the museum and the train outside. The owner instructed us to take the train first, as wait times are shortest in the early afternoon. On the upside, the train was decently large and comfortable, with huge open windows (unlike Cabin John where I immediately feel "big"). The ride through forests was nice enough, T was in heaven while F read her book and P seemed moderately amused. Enjoyable, but not necessarily worth trekking to NJ.

After the train ride we headed back to the museum, with my three kids already complaining "what is this place? can't we just go home." And THEN we started walking through the model train exhibits and everything changed. As soon as the first model train zoomed past us, P exclaimed "Mom, this place is amazing! Absolutely amazing. How did you ever find it?" And T started yelling "TRAIN!!" quite loudly every time a miniature locomotive lumbered past us. (Despite the fact that we saw HUNDREDS of trains, he continued to do this throughout the 50,000 feet of tracks). Pictures cannot possibly do Northlandz justice, as it's impossible to envision through photos just how all encompassing the place is. The displays usually span two stories, so if you look up there are wonderful bridges full of trains, if you look down, you'll encounter canyons and lakes. Similar to the best of Disney, it's like entering a whole other world.

Walkways continually incline up then down, allowing you to view most of the towns (is that the right word?) from different angles. Wonderful details - ghosts, an airplane crash, an amusement park, etc. keep everything from becoming monotonous. I especially loved the quirky little signs explaining the fictional world you're passing through.

Some side walls contain various artworks and curiosities donated from town members, giving the place a well-loved feel. For example, a town boy displayed his Star Wars models. Dollhouses and dolls are also for view along the hallways, a collection which seemed random and varied, but which P loved exploring. To add to the quirkiness, the middle of the museum contains a few HUGE and ornate organs in a dark room with a red chandelier. I was not sure what to make of them, but somehow they just added to the character of the place.

But back to the TRAINS. The 8 miles of wonderful train tracks with locomotives chugging along everywhere you look. To say this place made my day is an understatement, it made my summer. I think in the modern day we become so accustomed to factory-produced things, such as children's museums full of beautiful toys all "professionally" crafted by machines, that we can loose faith in the individual to create something beautiful and unique. While Northlandz did not appear amateur by any means, it still contained the look of something made by a person - one man's cohesive vision of homemade rivers and bridges and people. Which is what truly makes the place spectacular, especially with walking through with children - the idea that you can do this. It makes anything seem possible.

The tour is LONG (about a 1 mile walk), but (somewhat unbelievably) my kids loved every minute. After we came to the end, P wanted to begin again and see everything one more time. And T continued to yell "TRAIN!!" every time one chugged by us for the whole hour or so walk.

When we came to the end, the owner (and creator) of Northalndz asked how the kids liked it. "They loved it," I replied. And proceeded to tell him the story of how I'd discovered Northlandz on a blog and planned a roadtrip so the kids could see it. His eyes seemed to glaze over and I got the feeling that he had very little interest in what I was saying. For him, the most important part of our conversation had already occurred - the kids loved it. What else could possibly matter?

Northlandz is located in Flemington, New Jersey, only 1 hour from NYC (making it a great stop for the DC to NYC drive). Admission is pricey ($13.75 for adults and $9.75 for kids 2-12), but worth it. Also, the tour is LONG, it takes about 1-2 hours to walk through the model world and the only bathrooms are located at the exhibit's beginning/end, so plan accordingly. A small cafe is on site. Click here for more information.


No doll museum would be complete without a plush ET.


Places to Go (Vacation) - Channeling our Inner Gatsby at Coe Hall (Long Island, NY)


A few weeks ago Dan and I saw Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby and LOVED it (not sure why the critics balked, I thought it was the best big box office movie in years). So as soon as we arrived at my friend Jenny's house in Queens, NYC, I asked if we could channel our inner Gatsby by touring an old gold coast estate.

We chose Coe Hall because Sweet Fine Day had good things to say about the authenticity of the house's restoration (love that blog). She was right - more than any other historic mansions we've visited (The Biltmore in Asheville, NC Casa Loma in Toronto, Canada), this one somehow made me feel as if the butler really was right around the corner. The kid-friendly staff showed my children the servant call buttons and challenged them to find the buttons in every room, sort of the world's easiest scavenger hunt but T loved it. The day we visited the house was pretty vacant, so the kids and I slipped into our rich people persona" and tried to decide which bedroom we'd sleep in, where we'd hang out as a family, what we'd eat for dinner. So much fun.

The grounds are huge and beautiful (we only managed to see a small section). And admission is reasonable - $8 per car to enter the grounds and $3.50 per person to tour the house (children under 12 are free). Click here for more info.


There's something incredible about playing under really big old trees.


Places to Go - Learning about "The Old Days" at The Baltimore Museum of Industry (Baltimore, MD)


I've wanted to visit the Baltimore Museum of Industry for awhile, based on the fabulous tripadvisor reviews. But Baltimore is far (though now that DC rerouted the parkway exit so you don't have to sit at the Pennsylania Ave. light for minutes/hours/day, Baltimore is a MUCH easier drive) and the museum didn't sound like an all day destination (it isn't). So we decided to stop and check the museum out while roadtripping to NYC to visit my friend Jenny. And it didn't disappoint.

After paying admission and receiving a map, we headed to the general store. The kids didn't show much interest at first, stating "it's probably all behind glass, museum stuff always is." But, impressively, IT WASN'T. Everything was out in the open to explore and look at (though not to touch). Since the "no touch" rule can pose a problem with kids, each room houses a green kids' box, some are better than others, but all of them contained toys and pictures and various other things for both learning and playing. My children loved them and ran from room to room searching for the best boxes. While the kids colored and played, I read the exhibit signs documenting Baltimore's industrial revolution.

After the general store, we learned about the history of canning. The kids particularly enjoyed the manager's office, where they could try on various playclothes, color, and stamp time cards. Then we sported some coolio goggles and checked out an old tooshed/workroom, full of "builder stuff." Eventually we made our way to a recreated pharmacy/soda fountain, clothing store, and printing press (the world before computers fascinates my children). Along the way we saw various historic cars and learned about the Maryland lottery. Later in our visit we pretended we worked on the docks of a shipping display exhibit, fought for time in the phone booth, and debated which huge old tv we would have purchased for our home. One room offered tons of legos and blocks to play with, T started to create but the girls were antsy to "see more stuff." Outside, old boats and hundreds of ducks intermingled on the harbor.

Though the museum isn't huge, it presents well and really makes you feel as if you're traveling back in time. Plus, parking is free and abundant. A great way to spend an hour or two. Admission costs $12 for adults and $7 for children 7-12 (younger children are free). Click here for more information.


My kids chose office work over factory work.


We love "builder stuff."


Project Runway, old school style.


Lots and lots to explore. All my kids couldn't stop fighting over the phonebooth. Some things never change.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...