Things to Do - Grateful List (July/September 2017)

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Now that it's almost October I'm finally posting first day of school photos. 6th grade, 5th grade, and 3rd grade - and the years keep flying by.


* Watching the Founder
* Watching Meat Eater with Dan (and falling in love with Barb)
* Watching Spiderman Homecoming with the kids
* Watching Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead with the kids
* Watching National Lampoons Vacation (the 2015 version) on the plane - I know the reviews said it was terrible, but I couldn't stop laughing
* Watching the Incredible Jessica Jones on Netflix
* Watching Wind River
* Watching a Bigger Splash
* Watching PBS's Vietnam documentary series
* Binge-watching Insecure (my new favorite show!!)
* Reading May We Be Forgiven (A.M. Homes)
* Reading Exit West
* Listening to Mogul, the podcast
* I still can't stop singing Body Like a Backroad (it's been on repeat for a couple of months now).
* Listening to this playlist (esp. that new St. Vincent song)
* Listening to the War on Drug's new album


* Universoul Circus at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival
* The National Geographic Museum's Explorers Exhibit
* Claude Moore Colonial Farm's summer market fair on a not-very-hot afternoon
* Predator for family movie night on Columbia Pike
* Peak bloom at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens
* Afternoons at the apartment pool
* Taking the kids to see the King and I at the Kennedy Center
* Two weeks of Apple Camp
* Reston Watermine's lazy river on a hot July day
* A great day with friends at DC's off-the-beaten path museums - The Mansion on O Street & The American Indian Museum
* A lovely morning at the Adventure Park in Sandy Spring the week before school started (and T saying, "I'm having so much fun, I don't even miss my friends." Fun with me! Fun with me!)
* A great hike in Potomac Overlook Park the week before school started
* Walking the Tidal Basin with P and Laney on a beautiful Sunday
* Attending Aasif Mandvi's stand-up show at the Cinema Drafthouse
* Depeche Mode with Colleen at the Verizon Center (and closing out Fidos)


* Tomatoes from Dan's garden
* F making Dan two incredible birthday cakes
* Subscribing to Plated - now F makes dinner two nights a week!
* Tortas Y Tacos on Columbia Pike (such good food!)
* Subscribing to Shaker and Spoon's cocktail club


* F loving her first overnight summer camp (at UVA) - 10 days!
* The neighbors' 4th of July BBQ cookout and watching the fireworks from Columbia Pike
* A super close family game of Settlers of Catan (sometimes this game can linger forever, but this time we all were within winning distance of each other)
* A week without kids (their grandparents took them to Smith Mountain Lake)
* Dinner out with Kim, who was in town from Saudi Arabia (so many fascinating stories)
* Dan to the kids at bedtime, "Of course I love you, but right now I just need you to go away."
* School starting and having the house to myself all day! (plus returning to morning dog walks and Orange Theory)
* F making it to the third round of soccer try-outs (and then realizing she didn't want to play)
* Dan killing his first deer of the season (and making amazing venison dinners).
* Partying until 4:30 am on Columbia Pike with friends (including Don't Stop Believing karaoke at LA Bar and Grill)
* Two great back to school/Labor Day parties
* Friday margaritas at Jenny's house
* After a 90 degree beginning of fall - finally cooler temps at the very end of September


* Our first family overnight backpacking trip (Shenandoah National Park - Big Run Loop and Big Run Portal)


Things to Do - Random Links & 5 Hours 'Til Bedtime

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Happy Monday!! The neighbors hired T to start mowing their lawn, usually he uses our push mower but last week Dan helped him with the bigger mower. Corners were tough, but all in all he did a good job.

I hope you all had a great weekend. Here are some random links to get you through Monday. And, if you have a chance, please check out our new post on 5 Hours 'Til Bedtime - lots of fantastic images this week!


* 100 great works of dystopian fiction. Where to begin?

* YES!!!

* Billboards telling you where to go next - I love this project.

* A new batch of cookbooks for fall.

* The 10 books long listed for the National Book Award for Fiction.

* How do families around the world spend their vacation? LOVED THIS!!!

* I love this shirt.

* I just subscribed to this new magazine, it looks really good. Plus I love reading offline.

* Has anyone tried this shampoo replacement? I'm curious if it will work on my hair.

* Nostalgia overload - the 1979 Sears catalog children's toy section.


Things to Read - European Vacation Reading


Since we planned a month long vacation before we left (and while we were "on the road") I figured it would be good to learn more about some of the places we were going.


The House Of Medici: Its Rise and Fall - So much of Florence still references the Medici family (who ruled Florence for approximately 400 years, give or take) that reading a book about them gives context to the whole city - from the naming of buildings to the art in the museums. Knowing the stories made the city much more fun. (And, in retrospect, I wish I would have found books for the kids on the Medicis as well).


Cosima - Other than D.H. Lawrence's The Sea and Sardinia, I had a hard time finding a good book involving the island (and I'm not a huge Lawrence fan).

Then I discovered Grazia Deledda (still totally confused why it took so long to find her, hello patriarchy). Deledda, who won the 1926 Nobel Prize in Literature (wow!!), wrote novels and stories about people on the island.

I chose to read Cosima, Deledda's semi-autobiographical novel of a little girl growing up in small town Sardinia. Cosima is both enraptured by her birthplace's beauty and frustrated by her town and family's embarrassment over her writing and creative life.

This was a really good book, I'd love to read more Deledda in the future.


Prague Winter - Madeline Albrights' memoir/hisotry book tells the story of World War II through the perspective of Czechoslovakia. If you already know the history, this book may seem redundant, but I learned a lot and Albright continually asks the reader to question how they would have acted under similar circumstances.


The Radetzky March - As best summarized by Amazon, "The Radetzky March, Joseph Roth's classic saga of the privileged von Trotta family, encompasses the entire social fabric of the Austro-Hungarian Empire just before World War I. The author's greatest achievement, The Radetzky March is an unparalleled portrait of a civilization in decline, and as such, a universal story for our times."

At times, I found the story a little dull and the characters unbelievable. But the story itself is a good one, worth a read.


Secondhand Time, the Last of the Soviets - I must admit, I still haven't finished this book, as I find I can only read chunks at a time before I have to turn to something else. But that doesn't mean I don't love it. It's just too intense to read for long periods of time.

Svetlana Alexievich, who won the 2015 Nobel Prize for Literature, compiles her "fiction" by interviewing common people, then condensing and editing their stories. Her works are referred to as histories of emotions.

The stories are fascinating. And sad. If you want to know what life was really like under the Soviet Union, then this book is a must-read.

Just one of many great quotes, "I asked everyone I met what 'freedom' meant. Fathers and children have very different answers. Those who were born in the USSR and those born after its collapse do not share a common experience - it's like they're from different planets. For the fathers, freedom is the absence of fear . . . A man with his choice of a hundred kinds of salami is freer than one who only has ten to choose from. Freedom is never being flogged, although no generation of Russians has yet avoided a flogging. Russians don't understand freedom, they need the Cossack and the whip. For the children: Freedom is love, inner freedom is an absolute value. Freedom is when you're not afraid of your own desires; having lots of money so that you'll have everything; it's when you can live without having to think about freedom. Freedom is normal."


Places to Go (Vacation) - Europe 2017 - Part VII - Lake Bled, Slovenia

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Lake Bled was the second-to-last destination on our 10 city tour of (mostly) Eastern Europe. By this point, we were all pretty tired of traveling and ready for home (in case you haven't noticed, I tend to go overboard when vacation planning, next year we're taking things down a notch).

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In order to keep everyone's spirits up, I booked a treehouse at a fancy glamping resort (seriously, how cool is this place?). Or maybe that was just because I've always wanted to glamp. On the upside, I loved our little treehouse - waking up surrounded by trees and the sound of the brook was awesome. On the downside, it was SMALL. And by this point we were all getting on each other's nerves.

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We arrived during a cold spell, so the pool was freezing. But the kids still tried.

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At first I was upset that the treehouse had a tv, which seemed contrary to all my ideas of glamping/camping. But the kids were thrilled - especially since Slovenia doesn't dub, they just subtitle. So the kids watched Liv and Maddie in English while I had a massage, followed by cocktails with Dan at the restaurant. And on our last night in the treehouse we all stayed up late to watch Reese Witherspoon do her thing in Sweet Home Alabama.

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On our first night in town, we walked the circle path around the lake (it's only 4 miles and totally flat), which was great because tourists fade away once you're northwest of the lake and you can really appreciate the beauty. (The town of Bled is pretty hideous, but the lake is gorgeous).

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When the group photos look like this, it's probably time to go home.

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Nightfall on the lake.

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On our second day, we hiked/walked/explored the Vintgar Gorge. The walk itself, through the hills, was gorgeous. But the gorge was the most crowded nature-based tourist attraction I've ever encountered.

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The treehouse had a net for chill-axing. But F and P mainly used it for pillow fights.

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Another night at the pool.

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For our last day in town, I thought we'd drive up to Lake Bohinji (rumored to be less crowded) and find a good hike. But the ski resort in Bled had a ropes course that P really wanted to try. So we hiked up their instead. Unfortunately, the wait times were too long (3-4 hours) for us to stay, but we rode the luge down which was a total vacation highlight (well, for everyone but Dan).

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In the morning, we dropped off our rental car and headed to the train station to reach our final destination - Vienna, Austria.


Places to Go (Vacation) - Europe 2017 - Part VI- The gorgeous seaside town of Piran, Slovenia




I knew we'd be tired after visiting three cities in five days, so I booked a house by the ocean in Piran, Slovenia - a small town full of winding passageways (similar to the Amalfi Coast) and amazing views.

Based on the airbnb photos the house looked nice enough, but those pictures didn't quite do it justice. The views were phenomenal as were the gardens - T kept eating grape tomatoes off the vine, while F and P fought over the hammock. All three kids called it the nicest place we've ever stayed. They even hugged me and screamed "thank you! this place is amazing. we never want to leave!" (moments like this don't happen everyday).





Eventually, we navigated the maze-like corridors and made our way into town (luckily Piran is a small city, so it's not too hard to find your way). The town doesn't have a sand beach, so everyone sunbathes on the concrete.

I love how women in Italy all wear bikinis, regardless of body size or age.




At night, we walked to the church behind our house to watch the sunset.



For our first full day in Piran we decided to do nothing. And after three weeks of travel nothing felt pretty wonderful.









In the afternoon, the girls and I explored the "beach" and F accidentally dropped my iPhone in the ocean. I feel like every vacation has a turning point where you all of a sudden become ready to go home and for me this was it. We still had a great final week, but navigating Vienna without a cellphone left me a little drained. Though on the upside I became much better at reading maps.







And at night, Dan made dinner and we watched the sunset again. (Sorry, I know the color is inconsistent in many of these photos, I've been experimenting with new development styles and these photos were the guinea pigs).


The door to our house. I love how it looks so plain from the outside, making the gardens feel like some sort of secret.





We spent our second day in Piran exploring the area - hiking up to a town in the peninsula's interior and then walking back along the coast.


We discovered a free modern art gallery while walking along the ocean.


Piran is definitely the prettiest town along Slovenia's coast. The other towns had more of a cheesy-resort feel.


Apparently, in order to convince T to spend an afternoon reading all we needed to do was take him on vacation for three weeks. Oh, and buy the I Survived series.


We never tired of this view.



Throughout the afternoon, it rained intermittently. We tried to walk to the beach, but kept getting caught in 10 minute downpours.



Still reading.


During one such downpour, we ran into this restaurant, which ended up having some of the best food of our vacation. So so good.





Finally the rain stopped and we swam for awhile.


Ideally, we would have loved more time in Piran, but we still had two more cities left to explore. So we packed up the rental car and headed to the mountains to visit Bled, Slovenia.

More photos later this week . . .


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