7/31/13

Places to Go (Vacation) - Discover the "Invisible Universe" at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) (Green Bank, WV)

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(The last pictures was taken with one of the kid's prisms, which I borrowed for awhile).

This is one of the coolest tours we've ever done, perhaps because I had no preconceived expectations (as someone who loves to plan and research everything, I rarely have the pleasure of random adventuring). Several of the world's largest telescopes are located in Green Bank, WV (right next to Snowshoe Ski Resort). Who knew? Actually, this location makes a lot of sense - the mountains, combined with low population density, have allowed NASA to create a National Radio Quiet Zone in the area (yup, this is why Snowshoe ski resort has awful cellphone reception), which keeps the telescopes protected from interfering radio waves.

In particular, Green Bank's largest telescope (the property contains several) is the most technically advanced single-dish radio telescope in the world. Its 110-meter by 100-meter dish boasts more than two acres of area for collecting faint radio waves from the Universe. Weighing 17 million pounds, the GBT is also one of the world's largest moving structures on land. The GBT is a leader in the scientific study of pulsars, dense neutron stars that serve as laboratories in which astronomers study the physics of extreme states of matter and enormous magnetic fields. The GBT can also detect the fingerprints of atoms and molecules far into the distant Universe, yielding new knowledge about star formation, the structure and motions of gas in galaxies, and Nature's fundamental constants.

If this sounds boring, I can assure you that the tour is not. First of all, we visited an old-school 1970s-auditorium, where we watched a short film summarizing NRAO's research and mission. After the movie, a tour guide conducted LIVE experiments involving liquid nitrogen (to demonstrate how cooling devices can help with interference). And who doesn't love liquid nitrogen? The tour guide also conducted some other experiments involving digital cameras and radio interference. All the children received free prisms. Like Xmas.

Eventually everyone boarded a bus, where we toured huge fields full of extremely large telescopes. HUGE football field sized telescopes. And, for no logical reason, this made me feel incredibly important. The same feeling that I get while watching movies involving the FBI or CIA, like "wow, this is where the action is." Does everyone feel like this or did I just let my inner-dork shine a little too bright? Our guide was really knowledgeable and answered a ton of questions, but I just couldn't get over how BIG everything was.

Eventually, we arrived back at the visitors' center, where a decent-sized interactive science center contains displays and activities explaining NRAO's research and astronomy in general. The kids had a great time exploring (we spent a good 30 or 40 minutes checking everything out).
surprisingly fascinating. Unfortunately, the sequester is threatening to shut the operation down, but they seem to be working through it (at least temporarily) by renting out telescopes to Russia (is this really a good idea?).

If you're ever in the area, I HIGHLY suggest a tour (on the downside, as digital cameras cause interference with the telescopes, photography is VERY limited and not allowed at all in most areas). Tickets cost $6 for adults and $3.50 for children 7-12 (younger children are free). The NRAO also hosts various events such as sky-viewing nights and family days. Click here for more information.

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Science is fun. Really.

7/29/13

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

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We spent 4th of July weekend in Snowshoe, WV with Dan's parents at the resort's annual bluegrass festival, which has become something of a family tradition over the past few years (click here for all my Snowshoe posts). As always, we took the ski lift down to Shaver Lake (odd that my children have become proficient in riding a ski lift, yet have never skied). But this year the girls, my mother-in-law, and I decided to try something different and check out Snowshoe's geocaches. I've wanted to take the kids geocaching for awhile now, but I have an awful sense of direction and, thus, am nervous we'll fail to find the caches. But Not-So-SAHM's recent posts have inspired me to get out and try (check out her AWESOME review of the DC mural cache here). I figured Snowshoe would be a good place to start, as the resort places all the caches and Snowshoe promises that most of the caches are easy to find. Plus, I've wanted to hike around the lake for a few years now, but I needed some sort of motivational tool to inspire the kids.

On the upside, the girls LOVED finding the first five or so caches (there are 10 total, hidden along a 1.2 mile path), but eventually they became somewhat bored with it, especially since the caches only contain generic red plastic coins. And I found Snowshoe's GPS somewhat tricky to use, so it took us awhile to get the hang of things. But the hike itself was gorgeous - leading us from dark, almost black, forests - like somewhere out of a fairy tale - to beautiful green meadows housing millions of wild flowers.

So maybe we'll start trying to find some local caches. At least that's the goal.

HAPPY MONDAY EVERYONE!!

margie

7/26/13

Things to Do - Grateful List (June 2013)

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THE ARTS
* Listening to the Great Courses' lectures on the early and late middle ages
* Finally a new Vampire Weekend album (Obvious Bicycle)
* Gaim tv - best yoga videos ever
* Reading Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us
* Watching This Is Not A Film
* Listening to: The Ambulars (Dreamers Asleep at the Wheel), Blurred Lines, Tegan and Sarah's Closer, Deerhunter (Monomania)
* Reading Stephen Marche's essay on Home Economics in the Atlantic
* The Brain Pop app (my kids love it)
* Photography books from the library (esp. Immogen Cunningham)
* Attending a Legwarmers concert with Liz and Adrienne where I became drunk (yes, actually drunk) on nostalgia

FOOD
* Cantina Mexicana (with the kids) for our 8 year wedding anniversary
* Gwyneth Paltrow's AMAZING cookbook It's All Good: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great - we loved these recipes: NY Street Vendor Salad, roasted bass "baked clam" style, and lentil mustard salad
* A weekend morning making homemade pasta and ice cream with Dan (while listening to This American Life and Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me) and yes I know this whole sentence sounds like such a cheesy cliche.

PLACES
* A 70 degree day at Potomac Overlook Park with friends
* Hiking Turkey Run loop with the kids and T yelling "keep going nature explorers!!"
* Dusk at the playground - F reading in a tree, T and his cousin playing pirates, and P and her cousin flipping over the monkeybars, all while I read my book
* Hungarians at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival
* T bonding with Stephen Colbert at Madame Tussuads

STUFF
* Fitness dice

ETC
* Dan packing up our rental house in Corolla while I nursed a hangover all morning (best husband ever)
* A week of dentist and doctor's visits checked off the to-do list
* T and J dancing and exercising during the Little Movers presentation at the National Children's Museum
* T can write his own name (FINALLY!)
* P's perfect cartwheel and Little Miss Monkeybars award
* F's good citizenship award (at school) and yellow-striped belt (at martial arts)
* Our solstice party
* Taking F for her first pedicure
* No school and the kids sleeping in until 8:30
* Kids on a slip and slide
* THE END OF DOMA!!
* F's first piano recital (Hogwarts Hymn)
* A neighbor telling me "I'm not sure what T will be when he grows up, but I'm pretty sure it will be something weird. yes, very very weird."
* Journal time, esp. T yelling "Journal time everyone! Journal time!"

VACATION (Italy's Amalfi Coast)
* United Airlines' on demand tv system, 8 hours flew by pretty fast
* Dinner at Marina Grande in Amalfi (beautiful views and amazing food)
* Drinking wine and watching kids play soccer on the balcony of Hotel Centrale (Amalfi)
* Luigi's trattoria in Marina di Furore
* Feeling strong again
* Outdoor cafes and mojitos
* Lizards
* The Path of the Agave Flower and its vertigo-inspired views
* Wildflowers everywhere
* Random churches along every hike
* Sheepdogs and their sheep
* Our seaside balcony at the Tramonto D'Oro (Praino)
* Fireflies in the gardens of Le Tore
* Hiking the Path of the Gods
* Shopping at Antica Sartoia for beautiful white shirts
* Olive and lemon trees everywhere you look
* Open windows with no screens
* Waking up to church bells and roosters (albeit, this was a mixed blessing)
* Hotel Tramonto D'Oro in Sorrento (possibly the nicest place I've ever stayed)
* Salads at Aurora Light (Sorrento)
* Gelato
* Exploring Pompeii
* Dan "participating" in a street performer's act
* Reading books while watching the sea

The Kids' Lists:

F
- books, school, that we have everything we need - actually a little more than we need, my friends, i'm almost a second grader, the last day of school, a nice house to live in and food to eat

P
- painting, dance parties with my friends, going to the pool with L, my family, going out to dinner at the new mexican restaurant, your and dad's anniversary, gymnastics, my family, my Miss Monkeybars award, playdates with L, my cousins sleeping over, the solstice party

T - my family, that we have a nice house to live in and food to eat, going to the doctor and getting candy, our solstice party, Coco, attack cuddles

7/24/13

Places to Go - The FANTASTIC Penrose Square Splash Park/Fountain (Arlington, VA)

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As cliched as it sounds, the message of parenthood, as well as life itself, always seems to state: "be careful what you wish for."

As we know, I love a good spraypark (click here to check out my past review of the Rustico spraypark). So I was quite happy when Arlington county installed a brand-new spraypark/fountain in Penrose Square. First of all, since the splashpark also qualifies as an "interactive water feature", it runs constantly from 10 am to 8 pm (unlike Arlington's other splashparks which operate on a (somewhat confusing) schedule. Further, the spraypark is right next to Columbia Pike's newest dining destinations - Red Rocks, William Jeffrey's Tavern, Taqueria Poblano, etc. (we LOVE the revitalized Pike). And, best of all, the park is within seconds of my children's favorite place in the world - Menchie's frozen yogurt. Basically a huge win, right?

Well, not totally. Two weeks ago, I took P and T there, along with one of P's best friends. The girls ran into the spray and then ran out. And stayed out, proclaiming they were simply "too old for splashparks." Instead they spent the rest of the morning climbing the the weird egg sculptures and asking when we could go to Menchies. T, on the other hand, had the time of his life. The sprays are high, so you can really become quite wet and immersed. I think it's all rather wonderful. Five star. But the girls are not on board, so we haven't gone again.

For an extra special night out, on the third Thursday night of summer months, Penrose Square also hosts free movies and live music. August 15th is ET and September 19th you can see Toy Story live outside. Click here for more information.

menchis

7/23/13

Things to Make - Cucumber Salsa

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I thought for this summer's "Things to Make" I'd have a ton of wonderful kids' art projects and activities. But, somewhat sadly, we're just not rolling craftily this summer. Lately the days seem fuller than ever (how is this possible? seriously how?) between camps, the pool, and constantly checking on whether the stinky flower has bloomed (which it FINALLY has), we're exhausted.

So I'm posting a recipe this week. Our CSA (through Great Country Farms) keeps giving us LOTS and LOTS of cucumbers and one can only eat so much tzatziki or raita. One can, however, eat bowl after bowl of cucumber salsa (or so I've learned). We've been snacking on the salsa with chips, but I think it would also taste wonderful with fish.

Happy summer everyone!!

CUCUMBER SALSA

Ingredients:

2 cups finely diced peeled cucumber
1/2 cup finely diced red onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1 jalapeƱo (with seeds), finely diced
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preparation:

Mix first five ingredients in a medium bowl. Stir in lime juice and oil. Season to taste with kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, and more lime juice, if desired.


- recipe via Great Country Farms and 7Company Weight Loss & Wellness

7/22/13

Places to Go (Vacation) - Hiking Italy's Amalfi Coast, Part 4 - Positano, Le Tore, Sorrento, and Pompeii

positano

Final post on Italy . . .

On our 4th day, I was tired. Hiking is hard. And the hike lined up for day 4 was our hardest yet, so we decided to take the morning off - explore Positano, then take the bus to a half-way point and hike the rest of the way to our next destination. This didn't quite work out for us.

Up until this point, we had avoided the bus system by hiking from town to town. I'm not a huge bus fan, claustrophobia coupled with lack of control make me extremely uncomfortable. And the Amalfi Coast bus system didn't help to ease my nerves, due to the vehicle's height you can't see the road's guardrails, so it feels as if you're about to plummet into the ocean on a high windy road. As I tried to avoid vomiting, Dan fell asleep next to me (apparently the bus ride affects everyone in a different way). Thus, we missed our stop. One incredibly expensive and frightening cab ride later, we finally arrived at our destination - Agriturismo Le Tore, a working farm/B&B where we spent the night.

letore

After a wonderful meal at the farm, where we dined with a lovely couple from Barcelona, we poured some wine and wandered around the property. The night was crazy dark, so we couldn't see much, other than what felt like a zillion fireflies flickering in between all of the crops. And stars. So so many stars.

hike

Our final hike, on day 5, from Le Tore to Sorrento, was pretty easy and mostly took us through smaller towns, so we lingered, stopping for beers along the way.

sunset

Eventually we made it to our final destination, Sorrento and the absolutely gorgeous Hotel Tramontano. Sorrento was much larger than the other towns we'd visited, more along the lines of a "real city." We watched the most incredibly sunset at the hotel's balcony/bar (I still couldn't find a decent margarita).

pompeii

We spent our last day in Italy at Pompeii, which was HUGE and a little overwhelming. So much to see. We rented audio tours but I kept losing my sense of direction and in retrospect we probably should have gone with an in-person guide. Oh well, the whole thing was both fascinating and depressing, especially with Mount Vesuvius looming in the background.

jump

On our final night in Italy, Dan was picked from the crowd to twirl a street performer's jump rope, which seemed like a fitting end to a fantastic vacation.

The next day, we spent 22 hours traveling home: Sorrento - Naples (cab at 4 am); Naples - Munich (6:30 am flight); Munich - London; and London - Dulles; then cab to Arlington (this is the sort of itinerary you end up with when you book using discounted frequent flyer miles).

Now I keep obsessively checking out the On Foot Holidays website and trying to plan our next trip - maybe France? Or Tuscany? - which Dan keeps saying won't happen for several years. On the upside, the years keep flying by.

Happy Monday everyone!!

7/19/13

Things to Do - Random Links

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* World's Best Hikes - 20 Hikers' Dream Trails

* To splurge or not to splurge - I really want one of these. And then what color to pick? Plus, Zara is having the best summer sale ever. I'm in a shopping mood lately.

* Rethink the way you live - "I don’t know if I’ve properly put this into words here, but I’m in this weird space where I see so much value in design, but am also seeing a lot of the cost. Consumerism, materialism, keeping-up-with-the-Jones-ism. I mean, these concepts have been around for years, yes. But for some reason, I’m feeling the weight of it in a bigger way. Something in my heart is stirring. . . . . It’s inconvenient for a design blogger to feel this way. I’ve made a living uncovering trends and sharing products and labeling things as “must-haves” and “statement makers.” And I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t admit that I still love doing it. I’m fascinated with discovering new designs that change the rules, new artists that struggle for their passions – and yes, every now and then, just a pretty dress. I mean, come on. I’m still pinning like a crazy person. I’m adding to the noise."

* A camp for boys that dress like girls. Well, why not?

* Bohemian homes.

* Post it note art.

* I just learned that the world's largest model railroad is only 3.5 hours from DC (on the way to NYC). A roadtrip must be planned.

* Suburban dreams.

7/17/13

Things to Do - 12 in 12 (July 2013)

When I woke up (somewhat groggily) on Friday morning to more grey skies and rain, I was tempted to skip this month's project (or at least postpone to a sunnier day). But as the rain seems almost constant this summer, Friday was an appropriate reminder of the everyday. So we rallied, umbrellas in hand.

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8:15 am - P jumping rope in between downpours. She has camp all morning, then a playdate followed by a sleepover. So this is the last we'll see of her until Saturday. (they grow up so fast)

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9:15 am - T checking out our new pool toys. Hopefully one of these days we'll be able to use them. (He dressed himself last night, hence the backwards, inside-out PJs).

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11:30 am - T and I peruse the US Navy Museum. Because guns and ships are pretty awesome.

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1:00 pm - The 12 in 12 magic continues to work, T falls asleep during the car ride home.

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2:00 pm - T reads his favorite book on the couch, while I try to deal with the fact that all of my waitlisted library books arrived at the same time.

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3:00 pm - Picking F up from art camp.

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3:30 pm - The playground after camp. Rain makes for an awesome sand box. So many tunnels to dig.

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5:00 pm - Walking to mom/kid happy hour at a friend's house. We bring umbrellas everywhere with us lately.

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7:00 pm - Good friends and wine outside, while the kids all run around like crazy = a perfect Friday night.

Now click on over to Not-So-SAHM and Where the Watermelon Growsto learn about their July 12th. Interested in joining us in documenting the everyday? Just comment on this post to let me know (also check out our pinterest pool here).

7/15/13

Places to Go (Vacation) - Hiking Italy's Amalfi Coast, Part 3 - Praino and Positano

amalfi

On our third day in Italy, the REAL hiking began. In the morning we left beautiful Amalfi behind and gradually made our way up into the surrounding mountains.

bats

Eventually we descended into a canyon on the "Path of the Mad Bats" (what a name) which lead to the gorgeous Marina di Furore and Luggi's trattoria, where we ate some wonderfully fresh seafood and relaxed next to the ocean.

agave

What goes down, must come up. We climbed to the Path of the Agave Flower, where extremely large cacti seemed to be everywhere, but the views were phenomenal.

night

Eventually we made it to our lovely little hotel in Praino, the Tramonto d'Oro, where we drank wine on the balcony and watched dusk settle into the night. From our room, we could see the lights of Positano (our next destination), which seemed so close (yet, with all of the inlets in between, it was much farther, by land, than it appeared by sea).

map

On day 4, we began the climb to an uninhabited monastery in the mountains, San Domenico. When we first saw it from below, it looked like a tiny little speck and I thought "there's no way, I can climb that far", but but then an hour or so later, we arrived. Odd to see all of these gorgeous, old frescoes gradually disintegrating. So much history everywhere.

pathofthegods

We spent the rest of day 4 hiking the famed Path of the Gods (which was my big reason for choosing the Amalfi Coast). The hike was gorgeous (though much more crowded than our other hikes, where we usually had the paths entirely to ourselves).

positano

Finally we descended into Positano, a town much fancier than its neighbors. I've never been to Miami, but this is how I imagine it - tons of people dressed to the nines for a day at the beach. I felt sweaty and out of place in hiking boots, so we changed into sandals and relaxed at our hotel bar (the Hotel Pupetto), where I finally gave in and started drinking beer because margarita apparently doesn't translate well into Italian.

7/12/13

Things to Do - My Ten Step Kid-Friendly Summer Shape Up Plan

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Last summer I was in the worst shape of my life. I'm not quite sure how it happened, but with the kids having three separate schedules and Dan working a lot, I could never find a workout groove or pattern and things went downhill. I hate the feeling of my body being out of my control, not that I'm skinny right now by any means (I love wine and ice cream too much for that), but throughout the last year I've made an effort to establish better workout routines and eating habits. And then summer came along and all my carefully laid out "me" time disappeared. So here it is, my ten step effort to stay healthy with kids in tow. Wish me luck.

1. My Up wristband. I bought myself an Up wristband and I continue to wear it constantly. The wristband is basically acts as a pedometer and when you feel like checking your "stats", you just plug it into a ipad or iphone. I'm a little obsessed with it and even the kids constantly ask "mom, how are you doing? have you made your steps for the day?" And if I'm low we'll end up walking to the library or the playground or taking Coco around the neighborhood. Basically it just reminds me to walk, a lot. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Little things. That really do make a difference.

2. Fitness Dice. Because they're fun to roll and once someone starts rolling then everyone ends up following. And before you know it you've spent the last fifteen minutes doing jumping jacks. And laughing.

3. Join a pool. Because nothing in the world makes me want to work out more than wearing a bathing suit on a daily/weekly basis.

4. A Gaim tv subscription. They have everything from Rodney Yee to Jillian Michaels. So when it's too hard to leave the house with the kids I can continually try new workouts from home.

5. 7 minute aerobic workouts. Like this one. Or 7 minutes worth of burpees. Because sometimes during the summer it's hard to find more than 7 minutes.

6. Splurge on babysitters/camps. Because I love 10 am Bikram yoga, despite its lack of kid-friendliness (or, perhaps, because of its lack of kid friendliness).

7. Hiking. Arlington Magazine recently published a list of 7 EASY hikes in the metro DC area (click here to check it out). The kids and I have been checking some of them out. They can only go so far before claiming boredom or exhaustion, but it's better than nothing.

8. Health club daycare. When the kids were little they spent hours every week in health club daycare, but now they all hate it because "it's for babies, mom, babies." Um, well, not really. But I understand how the fun has worn off. Still, some days I'll resort to bribes to force them to come with me. Especially for kickboxing. But when bribes don't work (or when I just don't have the energy to load three complaining children into the minivan) I still have numbers 1-7.

9. Eat breakfast. I hate eating breakfast. Mornings are hectic enough, the last thing I want to deal with is a meal for me. But it really is true that if I eat toast with almond butter in the morning, I'm less hungry all day. So I'm going to try to start eating a daily breakfast. Really try.

10. Don't eat the kid food. One of my good friends lost about twenty pounds last year and has managed to change her diet so the weight continues to stay off. She gave me some great advice - don't eat the kid food and don't always force them to eat your food. Maybe that means they eat mac and cheese for dinner and you eat a salad. A good, yummy salad. Everyone is happy. Because trying to find foods that everyone likes becomes exhausting.

For those of you reading this list and thinking how pathetic it sounds, I assure you I am not in ANY WAY a diet or fitness guru. But I figured if I made a list and published a list then (hopefully) I will follow the list. So wish me luck.

What about everyone else? Any ideas for staying in shape when surrounded by children?

7/11/13

Things to Read - Five Interesting Articles From Around the Web (on Work/Life, Old Age, Lyme Disease, and An Almost Rock Star)

1. Stephen Marche's recent essay in the Atlantic Monthly is probably the best article I've ever read on the work/life debate. Almost every sentence is worth quoting, I highly suggest reading the whole thing. Plus, I'm so glad that men are starting to speak out on this topic, family issues ARE NOT simply women issues. They're people issues.

"The central conflict of domestic life right now is not men versus women, mothers versus fathers. It is family versus money. Domestic life today is like one of those behind-the-scenes TV series about show business. The main narrative tension is: “How the hell are we going to make this happen?” There are tears and laughs and little intrigues, but in the end, it’s just a miracle that the show goes on, that everyone is fed and clothed and out the door each day."

. . . .

"We live in a hollow patriarchy: the edifice is patriarchal, while the majority of its occupants approach egalitarianism. This generates strange paradoxes. Even women with servants and powerful jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars feel that they have an institutional disadvantage. And they’re right. Women in the upper reaches of power are limited in ways that men simply are not. Various men’s movements have emerged, purportedly to provide a counterweight to feminism, but this proposition is inherently absurd. The greatest power still resides in the hands of a few men, even as the majority of men are being outpaced in the knowledge economy. Masculinity grows less and less powerful while remaining iconic of power. And therefore men are silent. After all, there is nothing less manly than talking about waning manliness."
_______________________

2. In a similar vein to the above article, Noah Berlatsky wrote a short, nicely-stated piece on how both sexes often choose family over work.

"It's true that men are much less likely to talk about the family sacrifices required to be a high-powered CEO. But is the problem here solely that women are too open about what they give up? Or to put it another way, why is it seen as normal for a man to spend his life at work, travel away from his family all the time, leave the care of his children primarily to someone else—and never express a regret?

Some men—and some women—really do love the "joys" of power and success . . . And then some of us look at 80-hour weeks and never seeing our families and say, you know what? I would rather quit. I had an opportunity to move into a management position at my job, for example; instead, I went part time to care for my son. I got lucky and eventually moved into freelancing work—but even if I hadn't, I don't think I'd regret my decision. Changing diapers wasn't necessarily all that much fun, but given the choice between expanded administrative powers and wheeling my baby around the neighborhood while stuffing Cheerios into him, I know which one I'd pick.

Hewlett argues that we need to change the narrative for women, so that work for them is not seen as a sacrifice, and so that quitting work is not seen as the normal or default. I don't necessarily disagree. Certainly, we need better day care in this country, so that both women and men can have more options for balancing work and family. But, at the same time, I wonder whether women's experiences of quitting—or, for that matter, my experiences of quitting—should be so thoroughly discounted as a retrograde return to "the expectations of the 1950s," as Hewlett puts it. Lots of women have shown, pretty clearly, that if forced to choose between work and family, they'll quit work. Rather than seeing that quitting as false consciousness or failure, maybe we could learn from it that work is not always more important than family, and that quitting, for women or for men, is not a sin."
_________________

3. On a complete different topic, I LOVED Oliver Sacks' NY Times Article on the joy (no kidding) of old age.

"My father, who lived to 94, often said that the 80s had been one of the most enjoyable decades of his life. He felt, as I begin to feel, not a shrinking but an enlargement of mental life and perspective. One has had a long experience of life, not only one’s own life, but others’, too. One has seen triumphs and tragedies, booms and busts, revolutions and wars, great achievements and deep ambiguities, too. One has seen grand theories rise, only to be toppled by stubborn facts. One is more conscious of transience and, perhaps, of beauty. At 80, one can take a long view and have a vivid, lived sense of history not possible at an earlier age. I can imagine, feel in my bones, what a century is like, which I could not do when I was 40 or 60. I do not think of old age as an ever grimmer time that one must somehow endure and make the best of, but as a time of leisure and freedom, freed from the factitious urgencies of earlier days, free to explore whatever I wish, and to bind the thoughts and feelings of a lifetime together."
____________________

4. In the New Yorker, Michael Specter wrote a somewhat frightening piece on the battle over how to treat lymne disease, which is steadily on the rise.

"Many of these patients say that medical officials pay little attention to their persisting symptoms, and that Lyme disease is anything but easy to treat or to cure. They believe that the bacteria can hide in the body for years, potentially causing harm long after treatment ends. This condition, they say, is pernicious, difficult to diagnose, rarely cured, and widely ignored. Moreover, at least four pathogens, in addition to the Lyme bacterium, can be transmitted by the black-legged tick: Anaplasma phagocytophilium, which causes anaplasmosis; Babesia microti, which causes babesiosis; Borrelia miyamotoi, a recently discovered genetic relative of the Lyme spirochete; and Powassan virus. Some of these infections are more dangerous than Lyme, and more than one can infect a person at the same time. Simultaneous infection, scientists suggest, may well enhance the strength of the assault on the immune system, while making the disease itself harder to treat or recognize.

“I am not sure why we act as if we know the answers,” Brian Fallon told me. Fallon, a psychiatrist who has studied the neurological impact of Lyme for years, is the director of the Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases Research Center, at Columbia University. “The evidence that something more complex is going on is tantalizing and substantial.”
__________________________________

5. And to end with something completely random (yet interesting) New York Times Magazine published a great interview with Jason Everman, "the rock n'roll casualty who became a war hero" (during the late 1980s, Everman played bass in both Nirvana and Soundgarden before either band became "big").

"In the war, Everman seemed to have found his place. The cloud didn’t go anywhere; it just didn’t matter anymore. As one of his Special Forces colleagues (who is still on active duty and requested that his name not be published) told me: “He would get moody sometimes, but it didn’t interfere with the task at hand. I would rather work with somebody who is quiet than ran their suck constantly.” In Everman’s cabin, I saw medal after medal, including the coveted Combat Infantryman Badge. “Sounds kind of Boy Scouty,” he said. “But it’s actually something cool.” I saw photos of Everman in fatigues on a warship (“an antipiracy operation in Asia”). A shot of Everman with Donald Rumsfeld. Another with Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal. And that’s when it hit me. Jason Everman had finally become a rock star."

7/9/13

Things to Make - Homemade Peach Ice Cream

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This summer I purchased an ice cream maker and I'm a little obsessed with it. I went with this cheap, easy model, which is pretty fun to use. You just add the ice cream mixture to a frozen canister and then surround the canister with ice and rock salt (which you can buy through Amazon). Turn on the motor and half an hour later, voila - ice cream. For some reason I find this oddly fascinating.

Anyways, I keep experimenting with different recipes and types (sorbets, ice cream with eggs, no cook, etc.). But my favorite so far is this recipe for peach ice cream (adopted from various sources), it's just so good:

HOMEMADE PEACH ICE CREAM:


INGREDIENTS: 6 large peaches (ripe), 1.5 tablespoons lemon juice, sugar, 1.5 cups whole milk, 1.5 cups heavy cream, 4 egg yolks, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

1. Cut up 3 peaches (I like to leave the skins on), remove the pit. Place in a blender with 1.5 tablespoons of lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Blend. Refrigerate.

2. Combine milk, 1 cup cream, and 3 peaches cut up peaches (no pits) in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 4-5 minutes, until slightly thickened. Don't boil.

3. Combine egg yolks, 1/2 cup of sugar, and 1/2 cup of cream in a bowl. Whisk.

4. Whisk 1/2 cup of the milk mixture into the egg mixture above. Whisk. Combine both mixtures. Pour into saucepan. Cook and stir for 4-6 minutes. DON'T BOIL. Add vanilla. Refrigerate for 3-24 hours (until cold).

5. Pour custard into ice cream canister. Mix. Add the reserved peach mixture (step 1) after about 15-20 minutes (when nearly frozen).

6. Transfer mix to freezer until firm.

Does anyone else make homemade ice cream? Any tips or suggestions?

7/8/13

Places to Go (Vacation) - Hiking Italy's Amalfi Coast, Part 2 - Atrani and Ravello

atrani

I finally have more Italy pics to share . . .

On the second day of our vacation we hiked from Amafli to Atrani (which is right next door). The main reason we decided to use a travel agency (rather than plan it ourselves) was that On Foot Holidays provides detailed direction on how to hike to each destination while avoiding major roads (the secondary reason was they provided baggage transfer, thus allowing me to massively overpack). The directions proved invaluable as cities are often linked by series of alleys and stairways, giving everything a maze-like quality. Our days felt like scavenger hunts as we climbed through narrow walkways. And as I labored on, out of breath after going up for hours, we'd eventually come across some 60+ year old Italian woman practically bouncing from stair to stair.

ravello

After checking out Atrani, with its beautiful church and piazza, we started the hike uphill to the mountaintop town of Ravello, which contained a gorgeous sculpture garden, a wonderful church (I learned that basically every town houses a breathtaking church) and hoards of tourists (beauty comes with a price).

castle

After battling Ravello's crowds, we lunched in the (super) small village of Pontone and then hiked to the ruins of a fifteenth century castle, Tore dello Ziro, where, rumor has it, the Duchess of Amalfi, was murdered along with her two young sons. Sadness. On the upside, the views are fantastic.

up

Odd to see all the towns gradually become smaller and smaller and then grow large again during the long, long downhill climbs (oh, my poor toes).

down

Eventually, we made our way back down to Atrani, where mojitos and cold beers refreshed us as we people-watched in the piazza and contemplated a day well spent.

7/3/13

Places to Go - Madame Tussauds (Washington DC)

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The problem with Groupon is that though I'm always SO EXCITED when one comes up for something I've wanted to try, after I purchase it weeks pass and what seemed like a fantastic adventure becomes just another obligation. Two weeks ago we realized that our half-price deal for Madame Tussauds was about to expire, so, despite having tired children and feeling somewhat exhausted ourselves from hosting a neighborhood solstice party the night before, we rallied.

On the upside, Madame Tussauds was a pretty cool place for learning about US History. Each and every one of the US Presidents has been recreated in wax, and next to each statue a wall plaque lists highlights from each administration (several touch screen computers also help you learn more about them). Odd to see how tall/short some of these famous men were, also somewhat overwhelming to realize HOW MANY presidents have come and gone. Interspersed with our nation's leaders are certain key historical figures and a few interactive displays (T, in particular, loved wearing a helmet and practicing trench warfare). I found the whole thing somewhat impressive, but the children mostly ran from room to room (in order to get your money's worth, I'd suggest going with children 8 or older).

While I found the life-like-ness of the statues both creepy and amazing (seriously, I kept touching them to see if they'd move), P complained that she "thought we were going to a wax museum." So I replied, "but this is a wax museum, honey, that's what is so impressive, all these people are actually made of wax." To which P replied, "I know but that's SO BORING, I thought they'd be all white and ghost-like, like candles. These statues look like real people. And real people are boring." Um, apparently my children are hard to impress.

The museum is pretty small, so it didn't take long to reach the celebrity section. I thought my kids would find this awesome, but, unfortunately they didn't recognize a single celebrity (how is this possible? I subscribe to US Weekly). Brad Pitt, Britney Spears, Tom Cruise, THE BEATLES, Rihanna - Nada. Massive failure. But fortunately, just when I realized that my kids have no pop culture knowledge (where was Katie Perry? I NEEDED Katie Perry), T found Stephen Colbert. All of a sudden they started yelling, "daddy, daddy, he's here!! That guy you love! He's HERE!!". As you can tell, Stephen is sort of a BIG DEAL in our house.

The museum ends in a candy store, which made me cranky. Admission was pricey enough (even at 50% off), I didn't feel up to a battle over sugary souvenirs. And when I say candy store, I don't just mean a few chocolate bars, I mean a decently-sized bulk-candy store. Ugh.

All in all, a fun (though small) place to learn about history (though probably best for older kids), so if you're looking for a unique way to celebrate the 4th, this might be it. Admission costs vary, click here for the info (apparently, if you're local to the DC area, online admission is always 50% off, WTF Groupon??).

Whatever your plans are for the 4th, I hope you have a wonderful holiday!!

helmut

T became a soldier, P became president, and F bonded with the founder of the girl scouts (despite not being a girl scout herself).

space

T and I landed on the moon for awhile. We're cool like that.

colbert

T had no interest in Lincoln, but Stephen Colbert was quite a big deal.




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