8/28/15

Things to Do - Cherish This Day & Random Links

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HAPPY FRIDAY EVERYONE!! The pics above are our from our impromptu family photo shoot in Venice. One of Venice's tiny back streets had the most beautiful light ever (really, ever), so warm and even. Even though everyone was sweating like crazy, I talked the kids and Dan into stopping for some portraits and everyone but T acquiesced.

Seriously, isn't the light so so pretty? I wish I could take photos there all the time. Does anyone want a photo shoot in Venice? Anyone? Anyone?

Have a great weekend and don't forget to check out this week's amazing over at Cherish This Day.

RANDOM LINKS:

* The magic of winning a National Geographic Photo Contest. I LOVE THIS STORY, as well as the idea that one photograph could unite and bond a group of strangers.

* DIY leaf catchall. This looks like an awesome project with kids. Especially if you paint them.

* Hobo dinners - we should try to make some next time we camp.

* DIY instant noodle cups, sounds like a perfect lunch.

* Viva las vegas, such cool photos.

* "The world in a zip code" - this is where we live!

* I want to go to Dismaland. As in, really really want to go!

8/27/15

Things to Read - On the Bookshelf (August 2015)

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Lots of travel books from June and July, an attempt to prepare for our European vacation. As always, my favorites are starred.

***1. Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia, and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World - Before traveling to Rome, I wanted to read a book that would excite me for our trip. Thrilled by the possibilities. This is that book. It's also a really great rumination on life with young children. Random trivia - throughout the memoir, Doer tries to work on a novel about Nazi occupied Paris, but finds it hard to make much progress given the distractions of Rome. I assume this is the novel that became, All the Light We Cannot See, considered one of the best books of 2014 (I haven't read it yet).

2. Honeydew: Stories - I didn't love the first few stories in this collection and almost quit, but then, slowly, gradually they became better. The story about the random houseplant that thrives in neglect is probably my favorite.

3. Italian Ways: On and Off the Rails from Milan to Palermo - This memoir discusses the hassles and nuisances of traveling on Italy's railways. The writing is solid and the stories are (often) funny, in a frustrating after-the-fact way. But after I reached the book's half-way point, I realized that reading about Tim Parks' misfortunes and adventures had me in a constant state of anxiety regarding our upcoming vacation. So I stopped reading and became a happier person.

4. Paris to the Moon - In 1995, the New Yorker sent Adam Gopnik to Paris to report on city life. This collection of essays resulted. Some are funny, for example when Parisians tried to open a "NYC style" health club and nobody wanted to sweat. Some are boring (really boring), I could care less whether Gopnik likes European football (i.e. soccer). But almost all of them are snarky and, since summer reading = happy reading, after awhile reading this book felt like a chore.

***5.Girl in a Band: A Memoir - In high school I read Sassy magazine and listened to Sonic Youth, which is probably the closest I've ever come to rebelling in any form. I thought Kim Gordon radiated cool, but I found her music complicated and unnecessarily loud. The lyrics went over my head, but I listened anyways, trying to figure out the identity of Mildred Pierce(so goes life before the internet).

Anyways, when Gordon's autobiography came out a few months ago, I was eager to read it, but didn't expect to "get her" anymore than I did as a teenager. So I'm a little in shock about how much I liked this book. Gordon's life obviously moves in a direction way different than my own and a lot of the book reminded me of Patty Smith's Just Kids in that both memoirs are also love stories of New York city. But Gordon herself comes across as honest and real; she discuss hard topics, like child rearing and divorce, without resorting to cheesy cliches and easy answers. Anyways, I still find Gordon the epitome of cool, but no longer do I find her unreachable. Really a great read.

8/26/15

Places to Go (Vacation) - MILAN (Days 6 & 7) - Dragging Our Kids Through Europe, Part V

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More vacation stories . . .

We had planned on staying in Venice one night (because lodging there is SO EXPENSIVE) and two full days, but when we arrived at the train station to store our bags the luggage check was full. And the train station was crazy crowded. So my mother hen instinct kicked into full gear and I told Dan we NEEDED to catch the next train to Milan. We're still pretty sad about missing out on the Guggenheim.

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In Milan, we finally started to adjust to carrying all of our possessions on our backs . . .

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We stayed close to the train station (you can see the rental listing here), which was a quick subway ride from central downtown. We planned on exploring the neighborhood more, but the apartment was big and air-conditioned. Plus, it felt nice to have a whole day of lazy. So Dan grocery shopped and made a big dinner while I chilled with the kids.

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The next morning we caught the subway to Milan's central square and huge church. As in HUGE CHURCH. The views were phenomenal, but the temps were unbearable. (And, in case you're wondering, T basically wore the same shirt for most of our vacation, I'm not even sure he went through all the five outfits I packed him.)

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P and F heard that Milan was the fashion capital of the world, so of course we needed some retail therapy. Huge sales at Zara and Benetton kept both girls super happy.

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In the afternoon, we took a super crowded 3.5 hour bus/walking tour of the city. Yes, you read that right, 3.5 hours. The kids (much to my surprise) handled it super well (the tour guide even gave them a shout out for good behavior), but I found Milan to be a somewhat dull city (sorry Milan).

We toured the famous opera house, which would have been all sorts of awesome if I knew ANYTHING about opera. The inside of Milan's huge cathedral was pretty impressive at first, but even that became sort of lackluster after enough time had passed. T fell asleep on the bus (I could make a whole photo series of all the random places in Europe T slept).

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Finally we arrived at the Last Supper, the tour's highlight (and really the only reason we took the tour, as tickets are hard to procure on one's own). We couldn't take photos inside, as everything is hyper controlled (groups cannot exceed 15 people and can only stay for 15 minutes each), but the painting really was all sorts of awesome, especially if you've ever read The Da Vinci Code.

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By the time we made our way back to our apartment, everyone was tired and hot, so we opted for another lazy night at home (I know we seem like the lamest tourists ever, but I promise in other cities we actually partied like rock stars, well, aging rock stars with kids, but you get my drift). This actually ended up being one of our best nights in Europe, the slow internet forced us all to interact with each other - so I taught F backgammon while P and T battled like gladiators on the couch. Then Dan beat P in chess while F and I postagrammed. And we all fell asleep to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade on the ipad for a family movie (we chose that movie because it takes place in Venice).

HAPPY WEDNESDAY EVERYONE!! In the next few weeks I'll post some pics from Lake Como and Rome, as well as some DC-related posts. Hope you're all having a great summer!

8/24/15

Places to Go (Vacation) - VENICE (Day 5) - Dragging Our Kids Through Europe, Part IV

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As I mentioned on Friday, we rode an overnight train from Paris to Venice. Up until this point, we'd had incredible luck in terms of weather, Paris remained in the mid-80s for our entire visit - not too hot, not too cold. So Venice's heat hit us pretty hard (high 90s); by 10 in the morning we were caked in sweat.

Luckily, the city's small streets provided plenty of shade, thus while we visited some of the larger tourist attractions (i.e. St. Mark's square), we spent most of the day (purposefully) losing ourselves in twisted back lanes full of empty squares with gorgeous old water fountains. Despite our overall exhaustion, the magic of Venice really carried the day, as nobody can stay cranky for long in a city that looks as if it is floating in front of your eyes.

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Our first pizza in Italy. Italian restaurants rarely let customers order tap water for the table, rather you have to pay for bottled, which drove Dan crazy. T fell asleep at the restaurant right after I snapped this photo. Traveling is exhausting.

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P spent hours (literally hours) trying to decide which mask magnet to buy her best friend. I thought they all looked the same (cheap and made in China), but she disagreed. So we stopped in souvenir shop after souvenir shop.

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In the afternoon, we checked into our apartment (another wonderful airbnb rental, click here to see the listing), which had children's toys and air conditioning, as well as a much-needed washing machine. Unfortunately, we still had to walk back to the train station to retrieve our bags and even though Venice looks small, there aren't many bridges, so this took longer than anticipated. For the return trip, we rode the vaporetto/public bus system and then wondered why we hadn't utilized it earlier.

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Clean laundry = awesomeness.

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Due to the heat, we promised the kids a gondola ride in the evening, figuring we'd enjoy it more then. But after seeing the boats glide through canals all day, we were over them by the time night began to fall, so we opted instead for dinner outside and a sunset walk next to the water.

HAPPY MONDAY EVERYONE!! If you have a chance, don't forget to check out our new post on This Untamed Life!

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