Sep 022015
 
Follow me!

Follow me!

There is a wonderful art camp my children attend each summer in Richmond, Virginia. Many mothers think I am insane for traveling so far for art camp but when we arrive, we are with our tribe. My children love the art camp and the art camp counselors are always thrilled to see my kids. So, when it came time to sign up for camps this summer, we made sure to put our names on the list early. I wasn’t exactly sure how it was going to work out adding our new baby to the mix so we committed to only one week.

It has been an incredibly rainy summer here in Virginia. The first day of camp was no exception. It poured as we drove down I-95 in the morning.

Heavy rainstorms have been commonplace this summer.

Heavy rainstorms have been commonplace this summer.

We dropped the girls off for camp with their new backpacks.

2015-07-13-02-pinkbackpacks-IMG_9727

The boys and I headed off in search of an adventure to occupy us for the day. I had a loose list of activities in mind for the week. For today, I thought we would try Belle Island. I set off driving in roughly the right direction, when I saw a green tourist sign BELLE ISLAND with an arrow. I made the appropriate turn and found myself in an unfamiliar parking lot.

There were not many cars present. Just a few hikers and one family driving a run-down pickup truck. The boys were asleep so we hung out in the car for a little bit. I read and dozed a bit until they woke up.

My preschooler was ready to run! We set off on the trail.

This was a different entrance to the James River Park system than we were used to but it looked awfully familiar for some reason. We crossed a railroad bridge and wound down a set of steps. Below us beautiful views of rocks and the river beckoned.

More signs of the recent rains.  The water level in the river was quite high.

More signs of the recent rains. The water level in the river was quite high.

The gorgeous view as we descended the steps.

The gorgeous view as we descended the steps.

At the bottom of the staircase, we decided to go for the “dry rocks” section. This is an area of large rocks separated by small rivulets of water. The deepest water was about one foot. My son thought this looked like a huge climbing playground and it was! It was a bigger challenge for mom to get across as I had the baby strapped to me in a sling.

There is no set trail for the dry rocks. You can go in any direction. We tended to look for the easiest path.

Exploring the dry rocks.

Exploring the dry rocks.

Spotting a heron in the distance, we took off an an Alice in Wonderland like experience, following the heron.

Spotting a heron in the distance, we took off an an Alice in Wonderland like experience, following the heron.

2015-07-13-07-james05-heron02-IMG_9748

Every once in a while, it was time to stop, find a stick and poke it into a puddle.

Every once in a while, it was time to stop, find a stick and poke it into a puddle.

Over this way!

Over this way!

We found our heron again....scaring it out of some rushes where it was fishing.

We found our heron again….scaring it out of some rushes where it was fishing.

Herons are some of my favorite birds.  It was a treat to see one at such close distance.

Herons are some of my favorite birds. It was a treat to see one at such close distance.

2015-07-13-12-james10-IMG_9772

Stopping for a selfie.

Stopping for a selfie.

2015-07-13-15-james13-IMG_9799

We wandered back toward the bridge to the parking lot. I gave my son a choice. We could either go find some swings to play on at the nearby park or walk down the trail in the other direction. To my great surprise, he chose the trail . . . with enthusiasm!

The paved trail in the other direction.

The paved trail in the other direction.

At the end of the trail, there was an old power plant building which seemed to be in disuse.  There were several people sunbathing, fishing and a gaggle of Canada geese.

At the end of the trail, there was an old power plant building which seemed to be in disuse. There were several people sunbathing, fishing and a gaggle of Canada geese.

2015-07-13-jamesriver-powerplant-IMG_9810

We turned and walked back toward the car. Generally, we were all alone on the trail so I was spooked when someone silently came up behind us and needed to pass. I screamed and then laughed in embarrassment.

2015-07-13-jamesriver-bridge-IMG_9818

Little did I know the biggest surprise was yet to come!

2015-08-13-smash-IMG_20150713_143447

 Posted by on September 2, 2015 General Tagged with: , , ,
Jul 232014
 

Welcome to Richmond!

Since I spent a good part of my last two summers in Richmond while my children were in camps, I was a bit sad to think we would not be there at all this summer. I waited too long to register for summer camps and they were all full.

. . . . or at least so I thought.

Hey Anne!

Amazing news! Morning spots just freed up . . . in Session 1 (July 14- 18) Please let us know if this is something you are still interested in!

Yes! Yes!! It was amazing news and we were thrilled. This was the art camp my children adored and the staff seem to enjoy my children just as much. It was a serendipitous match.

We packed our lunches, found the art smocks and backpacks and set the alarm for an early start.

After dropping off the girls, I didn’t really have a plan in place for what my son and I would do for the next few hours. I drove around a bit aimlessly and went past The Library of Virginia. We decided to start there.

The Library of Virginia

The Library of Virginia

The current lobby exhibition is about The Flora of Virginia. I had heard about this from the Virginia Native Plant Society. I wasn’t quite sure exactly what this was but I understood that many people were VERY excited about the publication of this flora.

2014-07-23-flora-sign

The first question, of course, is what is a flora? The exhibit explained:

2014-07-23-floradefinition

I loved the idea that this was an intersection of science and art and that hand-drawn illustrations were used rather than photographs.

The most recent Flora of Virginia was published in 1715 by John Clayton. It has never been formally updated since. Most botanists were using a combination of flora for West Virginia and North Carolina when working with Virginia plants. Now they have a flora to call their own!

I learned many interesting things from the exhibit. Of organizational note, Carolus Linnaeus was an important pioneer of plant organization. His work in 1753 to set up a naming system for plants consisting of two names, genus and species, revolutionized botany. Prior to this innovation, there were all sorts of naming systems for plants and many plants had extremely long descriptive names.

I also learned what the term “herbarium” means. While it sounds like it has something to do with herbs, it really means “a collection of dried, preserved plant specimens on paper.” It’s kind of like a library of pressed flowers. The specimens are artfully arranged on paper with the name of the plant and any important notes. Usually a decorative stamp identifying the herbarium is in the top corner. They were described as another intersection between science and art.

Another great exhibit told of the artist’s conk fungus. This is sort of like a large mushroom that grows on trees. It has the unique property that if you mark on it with a sharp object, it will leave dark brown mark that resembles carvings in ivory or bone. Artists have used the fungus as a canvas. There was a great example on exhibit of a fungus from a botany club where all the members had signed the fungus.

The exhibit had a combination of rare books, artwork, photographs, history and botanical information. It was a clever meshing of many different disciplines.

Another organizational note from the exhibit.  This is a "vasculum," a special box botanists use to hold plant specimens collected in the field.

Another organizational note from the exhibit. This is a “vasculum,” a special box botanists use to hold plant specimens collected in the field.

After the exhibit, we toured The Virginia Shop, their gift shop. This was a wonderfully designed gift shop! It had a huge hipster influence with all kinds of artful and quirky items. I made note of several items for future Christmas and birthday gifts.

There were some wonderful education resources, including this unique book on teaching the underground railroad to children.

There were some wonderful education resources, including this unique book on teaching the underground railroad to children.

2014-07-23-wreckthisjournal

2014-07-23-aftertoast

2014-07-23-decompositionbook

There was also a wonderful selection of authentic antiquarian books.  Most were volumes with Congressional hearings,  trade records or diplomatic correspondence from around the time of the Civil War.  They would be a great addition to a formal law or business office and they were reasonably priced around $15 or so!

There was also a wonderful selection of authentic antiquarian books. Most were volumes with Congressional hearings, trade records or diplomatic correspondence from around the time of the Civil War. They would be a great addition to a formal law or business office and they were reasonably priced around $15 or so!

If you are a Virginia local, you can sign up to join the Library of Virginia’s mailing list. They have a great book club and other events.

After the library, we took a quick walk across the street to the Virginia School Board building where you can take the elevator to the top floor observation deck for an amazing view of the city.

2014-07-23-view1

2014-07-23-view2

2014-07-23-view3

There was a construction project going on right below us that was fascinating to watch.

There was a construction project going on right below us that was fascinating to watch.

Walking back to the car, we saw this billboard at a local sandwich shop:

2014-07-23-recessionspecial

Although I don’t think anyone would say that the economy is in “recession,” there are aspects of the Virginia economy that feel that way sometimes. I hope this small business struggles through.

I picked up my daughters from camp. This year, they both only wanted to do half day camp. When I asked them why they said it was because last year I did such fun adventures in the afternoons that they didn’t want to miss out! Wow! This may be the highest compliment my children have ever paid me. They actually wanted to hang out with boring old mom!

For some reason, every time I am in Richmond, I notice cryptic signs.  This one asked, "Who is Salomonsky?"  Apparently he is a prominent and controversial real estate developer in downtown Richmond who once served time in federal prison.

For some reason, every time I am in Richmond, I notice cryptic signs. This one asked, “Who is Salomonsky?” Apparently he is a prominent and controversial real estate developer in downtown Richmond who once served time in federal prison.

Another Richmond signature: road tolls!  You need to have a roll of quarters and dimes with you in the car just in case! (or an EZ Pass)

Another Richmond signature: road tolls! You need to have a roll of quarters and dimes with you in the car just in case! (or an EZ Pass)

The children had one primary destination in mind for our Richmond adventures so I decided to get that out of the way first.

2014-07-23-zoosign

The Richmond Zoo is small but on a previous visit we had a lot of fun there. They allow you to get up close to feed the giraffes which is fun and they have other activities as well like a train ride, carousel and petting zoo.

Unfortunately, however, there was one factor working against us on this trip:

93 degrees with Virginia humidity is HOT!!

93 degrees with Virginia humidity is HOT!!

There are no indoor exhibits at the zoo so we braced ourselves for walking around in the heat. I purchased some sunscreen at the zoo store which came on a nice caribiner clip so that I could attach it to my keys. (A good organization tip to remember.)

We wandered around looking at animals, most of whom were trying to lie down in whatever shade they could find. My children complained the whole time that it was too hot and they were ready to leave after only about an hour.

2014-07-23-zoohot

We did enjoy watching a giraffe run across their savannah exhibit. I don’t know if I have ever seen a giraffe run in person before. It is an amusing sight. The giraffe has such gangly long legs that it runs in a sort of graceful tangle. We also saw some zookeepers transporting a large Galapagos tortoise into a mud pool to help it cope better with the heat.

So, our circumstances weren’t the best for a zoo visit but I was glad to get the zoo out of the way so that the children would be ready to see other things.

We drove home through the back roads and encountered heavy rain along the way.

We drove home through the back roads and encountered heavy rain along the way.

Overall, day one was a success! Richmond is such a comfortable city to visit with the amenities of a big city but less parking hassles and traffic. We all looked forward to what the rest of the week would bring.

Jan 012014
 
An early start to out-run the ice storm.

An early start to out-run the ice storm.

Happy New Year! It is the start of a fresh year and the end of 2013’s holiday party season . . . and time to finish up our holiday road trip. When I last left you, we were waiting for an ice storm to descend on us in Memphis, Tennessee. As we went to sleep, ever-worse weather predictions foretold of ice-covered roads and power outages. The storm was supposed to hit as early as 5 a.m. We decided to wake up at 6 and see how the weather was at that time.

Again, luck was on our side! The storm had not yet arrived and would start around 9 o’clock or so. We looked ahead on our route and as long as we could get further east by 9, we should be able to outdrive the storm. We packed, woke and dressed the kids and got everyone piled into the car by 8:00 a.m.

The weather was rainy but not yet icy.

2013-12-31-memphis-rainyconditions

Tennessee's musical heritage is its signature.  It was amusing to see Loretta Lynn and Hank Williams honored at the highway rest stop.

Tennessee’s musical heritage is its signature. It was amusing to see Loretta Lynn and Hank Williams honored at the highway rest stop.

2013-12-31-memphis-rainyriver

2013-12-31-nashville-highway40

We originally planned to spend some time in Nashville, Tennessee which looks like an amazing, art-filled, revitalized downtown. However, our entire schedule was completely off with our early start. We were too early for lunch and nobody felt much like walking around downtown in the rain. So, we sadly made do with a few drive-by shots of the downtown area and put Nashville on our list for future road trips.

Downtown Nashville

Downtown Nashville

2013-12-31-nashville-downtownview1

2013-12-31-nashville-downtownview2

We drove on and on until hunger got the best of us. We were completely off our planned itinerary so we were planning on the fly. By Cookeville, Tennessee, we decided to see if there was anything interesting to eat. A quick check on TripAdvisor yielded this yummy find.

World Foods in Cookeville, Tennessee

World Foods in Cookeville, Tennessee

World Foods is a relatively small restaurant but on this day it was packed with locals. It was a great spot to spend a rainy day.

A little taste of Europe -- a case full of cheeses, olives and other yummy things.

A little taste of Europe — a case full of cheeses, olives and other yummy things.

Weeks of travel were finally catching up with me and I began to suffer from a horrible cold that I am STILL recovering from.  The best remedy at World Foods was peppermint tea with honey.

Weeks of travel were finally catching up with me and I began to suffer from a horrible cold that I am STILL recovering from. The best remedy at World Foods was peppermint tea with honey.

World Foods is famous for their pizza, which is really delicious!  My children objected to the oregano sprinkled on top and ate it only under threat of losing dessert privileges.  The owner was personally sad that the children didn't like it.

World Foods is famous for their pizza, which is really delicious! My children objected to the oregano sprinkled on top and ate it only under threat of losing dessert privileges. The owner was personally sad that the children didn’t like it.

Delicious beef schwarma.

Delicious beef schwarma.

A terrific sign behind the cash register.  The owners of this restaurant clearly take this message to heart and put tremendous love and care into their food.

A terrific sign behind the cash register. The owners of this restaurant clearly take this message to heart and put tremendous love and care into their food.

After lunch, we decided to check out one other of Cookeville’s institutions, Ralph’s Donut Shop. We used the convenient drive-through window.

2013-12-31-cookeville-ralphsdonuts-sign

Ralph's delicious Do-Nuts.

Ralph’s delicious Do-Nuts.

We drove on and on through the rain that afternoon.

2013-12-31-tennessee-landscape1

2013-12-31-tennessee-landscape2

2013-12-31-tennessee-landscape3

2013-12-31-tennessee-landscape4

2013-12-31-tennessee-landscape5

There wasn’t much to do in that part of Tennessee. It was more of a survival day. We headed toward Johnson City, our destination for the night. We checked into the hotel and everyone took a brief nap before dinner. It was still raining when we headed out for dinner.

Rainy night in Johnson City.

Rainy night in Johnson City.

We picked up our planned itinerary at this point and stopped at the southern-sounding Cootie Brown’s.

2013-12-31-johnsoncity-cootiebrowns-sign

It was a Friday night and the restaurant was hopping. It is brightly colored and decorated with caricatures of the fictional world-traveling Cootie Brown. We ate on the heated porch.

My son getting stuck between the table and the small wall that was perfect for driving his cars on while we waited for our food.

My son getting stuck between the table and the small wall that was perfect for driving his cars on while we waited for our food.

My daughter passed the time creating sculptures from the crayons.

My daughter passed the time creating sculptures from the crayons.

There was a great holiday decorating tip from this restaurant. The restaurant itself was already full of so many bright colors and things to look at that traditional holiday decorations like trees and wreaths would have overwhelmed the space. Instead, the owners just added a few ornaments here and there and called it a day. It worked!

You don't need a lot to show some holiday spirit.

You don’t need a lot to show some holiday spirit.

A burger with homemade chips.

A burger with homemade chips.

Tortilla soup.

Tortilla soup.

Cootie Brown's signature dessert: key lime pie.  It was just the right combination of tart and sweet.

Cootie Brown’s signature dessert: key lime pie. It was just the right combination of tart and sweet.

It had been kind of a blah day but we had achieved our prime objective of getting ourselves safely out of the way of the winter storm. We went to bed knowing there was just one day left on our journey. We were all getting excited to be back home.

One thing my husband was not going to miss when our vacation was done was being the bag porter twice a day for all of our luggage.

One thing my husband was not going to miss when our vacation was done was being the bag porter twice a day for all of our luggage.

The next morning, we loaded up the car one last time and headed out of Johnson City.

A humorous sign on a nearby church.

A humorous sign on a nearby church.

2013-12-31-johnsoncity-landscape1

2013-12-31-johnsoncity-landscape2

We were glad to see the sign for our home state.

Virginia, I think our sign could use a little more excitement.

Virginia, I think our sign could use a little more excitement.

Cabela's is coming!

Cabela’s is coming!

Another thing we noticed all across the United States during our travels was how decorated the cemeteries were.  For many, the holidays are a time to remember those who are no longer with us.

Another thing we noticed all across the United States during our travels was how decorated the cemeteries were. For many, the holidays are a time to remember those who are no longer with us.

We were a bit off schedule for the day and we weren’t going to make our intended lunch spot before it closed. So, we found a spot to eat in Abingdon, Virginia, The Dunk and Deli Co.

2013-12-31-roanoke-dunkndeli-sign

Reuben and baked potato soup.

Reuben and baked potato soup.

Their baked potato soup was the perfect winter food. And, of course, we couldn’t pass up the doughnuts.

2013-12-31-roanoke-dunkndeli-donut

It was time for the final leg of our destination. We drove through miles and miles of beautiful Virginia farmland.

2013-12-31-virginia-landscape1

2013-12-31-virginia-landscape2

2013-12-31-virginia-landscape3

We were impressed to see fleets of power trucks from Pennsylvania traversing the highways the last few days. They were headed into Tennessee and Oklahoma the previous day and now that the ice storm was headed east, they were headed back toward the east coast.

2013-12-31-roanoke-powertrucks

I always try to have our last stop of the trip be something memorable so we end the trip on a high note. It’s not always easy to find such places but fortunately Virginia had something great to offer.

2013-12-31-roanoke-star-mountain

Getting closer.

Getting closer.

Up a winding road. . . .

Up a winding road. . . .

To the star!

To the star!

Little did we know that Virginia is home to the world’s largest man-made star . . . . and a gorgeous view of the Roanoke valley as well.

2013-12-31-roanoke-view

2013-12-31-roanoke-view2

There is even a live webcam so that you can watch people visiting the star. Fortunately for us, it was not functioning at the time or it would have caught ridiculous pictures of me trying to set the camera up for a self-timed photo of our family with the star (which requires a difficult upward angled shot).

One last look.

One last look.

We spent some time admiring the view . . . but not too long as it was freezing. While there are many challenges of a winter road trip, particularly the weather, the one easy part is that it is not as hard to pull the trip to a close. Getting home to a warm, cozy house is a powerful incentive!

“It’s cold! Let’s go home!” everyone cried.

**********

Thank you for putting up with me as I shared our vacation photos! Some people have told me our road trips are their favorite feature on my blog. By reading my posts, you have also given me the motivation to tackle the time-consuming process of going through hundreds of photos to choose the best ones and scrapbook our trip. I hope you found some inspiration from the many different ideas we encountered on our trip.

Every time we do one of these trips I leave with a new appreciation for the United States and gratitude to be a citizen here. Our family has seen so much but really have barely scratched the surface on what this country has to offer. I hope you also have the opportunity to explore and travel and that 2014 brings you many adventures!

 Posted by on January 1, 2014 General Tagged with: , , ,
Dec 302013
 
You know you have been on the road a while when even your homeschool curriculum is asking, "Are we there yet?"

You know you have been on the road a while when even your homeschool curriculum is asking, “Are we there yet?”

We awoke on day 14 of our holiday road trip in Yukon, Oklahoma. We were still running from the winter storm system and the winds outside were glacial. It felt as frigid as our morning in Chicago but the temperature at 20 degrees was a full 7 degrees warmer.

The most notable thing about Yukon, Oklahoma was their extremely tall men! I am not sure what they are feeding men in Oklahoma these days but all of the men we saw in the hotel were far taller than average. It was becoming humorous. I was feeling shorter by the second.

When we checked in the night before, I noticed that almost every single vehicle in the hotel parking lot was a large pick-up truck. As we got off the elevator on the floor for our room, a college-age man was grabbing a snack from the vending machine and dashing back to his room right next to ours. He must have been at least 6’5” and might have been wearing a basketball jersey. In the morning, we went downstairs to breakfast where a similarly-sized businessman was watching the weather news and checking his phone for messages. Meanwhile a tall man was checking in at the front desk. These men all were in basketball-player height range. Oklahoma women seemed average size but there was something crazy going on with the men.

Garth Brooks Blvd in Yukon, Oklahoma.

Garth Brooks Blvd in Yukon, Oklahoma.

As we drove out of the hotel parking lot, we saw “Garth Brooks Boulevard.” It made me think about other famous men from Oklahoma, like Blake Shelton 6’5” (Ada, OK), Toby Keith 6’3” (Clinton, OK) and even Garth Brooks 6’0” (Tulsa, OK). The U.S. apparently doesn’t keep any statistics on height by state but we’ll have to nominate Oklahoma for tall men.

All eyes were on the weather today and it was going to be a tough day of driving.

Despite the severe cold, highway construction workers were still out on the job.

Despite the severe cold, highway construction workers were still out on the job.

Quick view of downtown driving past Oklahoma City.

Quick view of downtown driving past Oklahoma City.

All along our route, you could not escape the "Winter Storm Warning" signs.

All along our route, you could not escape the “Winter Storm Warning” signs.

2013-12-30-okcity-tinkerafb

2013-12-30-okcity-tinkerafb-planes

The winter storm starts to catch up with us.

The winter storm starts to catch up with us.

As a country, we seem to be getting better and better at organizing for disasters.  Here, a sand truck preparing for de-icing efforts.

As a country, we seem to be getting better and better at organizing for disasters. Here, a sand truck preparing for de-icing efforts.

The roads became slick.

The roads became slick.

Entering Arkansas.

Entering Arkansas.

The road becomes more treacherous and we see several cars that have slipped off the road, fortunately with no major injuries apparent.

The road becomes more treacherous and we see several cars that have slipped off the road, fortunately with no major injuries apparent.

Visibility was challenging at times.

Visibility was challenging at times.

2013-12-30-arkansas-rainspattered

2013-12-30-arkansas-riverscape

After hours of challenging driving, we stopped for lunch. When we were planning our trip, my 5-year-old saw me plan a visit to a restaurant called The Purple Cow. For some reason, she became fascinated with this restaurant and asked every day if it was time to go to The Purple Cow. She was thrilled that today was finally the day!

2013-12-30-arkansas-purplecow

2013-12-30-arkansas-purplecow-interior

Thrilled to be at The Purple Cow!

Thrilled to be at The Purple Cow!

Even more thrilled that the signature purple milkshake comes in her favorite flavor, vanilla!

Even more thrilled that the signature purple milkshake comes in her favorite flavor, vanilla!

2013-12-30-arkansas-purplecow-salad

The Rodeo Burger

The Rodeo Burger

While we were eating, The Weather Channel was streaming behind us.  We were a bit concerned that we were driving right into the worst affected areas.

While we were eating, The Weather Channel was streaming behind us. We were a bit concerned that we were driving right into the worst affected areas.

After a delicious lunch, we headed to our next destination in Little Rock. . . you might say, THE destination in Little Rock, The Clinton Presidential Center.

2013-12-30-arkansas-clintonlibrary-ext

We were lucky as we basically had the entire presidential library to ourselves that day. The security guard indicated that they had record visitation the day before but that the day we visited was especially light. The weather may have been a factor in that.

The Clinton Presidential Center is a library and museum about the Clinton presidency but also a meeting and event space. It has a wonderful, modern design and incredible views of Little Rock.

Decorated trees inside the library.

Decorated trees inside the library.

View of Little Rock.

View of Little Rock.

2013-12-30-arkansas-clinton-littlerockview

There are a couple of signature features of the Clinton Center. There is a recreation of the Oval Office as it existed during the Clinton Presidency that is wonderful to see. You can also sit at a recreation of the Cabinet Room table.

The Oval Office.

The Oval Office.

The Cabinet Room.  Visitors are welcome to come sit at the table, which is an empowering experience.  It was interesting to learn that the President does not sit at the head of the Cabinet Room table.  Rather, he sits right in the middle and the Vice President sits across from him.

The Cabinet Room. Visitors are welcome to come sit at the table, which is an empowering experience. It was interesting to learn that the President does not sit at the head of the Cabinet Room table. Rather, he sits right in the middle and the Vice President sits across from him.

The museum portion of the Center is full of interesting artifacts. There are precious mementos from the Clinton’s early life, including a birth announcement for Chelsea.

2013-12-30-arkansas-clinton-museum

2013-12-30-arkansas-clinton-hillary-bill-wedding

Bill Clinton's childhood drawing of one of his favorite TV shows.

Bill Clinton’s childhood drawing of one of his favorite TV shows.

The museum also provides a place setting from one of the Clinton’s state dinners, gifts from various foreign dignitaries to the White House and examples of how they celebrated various holidays.

My favorite part of the museum, however, is that it let you take a look at the organizational strategies going on behind the scenes. There were binders full of the President’s daily schedule, which is exhausting just to read. There were drafts of speeches, complete with handwritten comments. I also loved the Post-it notes showing the distribution lists to various key staff members, letting us know that there is a lot of simple organization that has to go along with broad strategic policies.

Example page from the President's daily schedule.

Example page from the President’s daily schedule.

Page from Dale Bumpers' speech to Congress during President Clinton's impeachment trial.

Page from Dale Bumpers’ speech to Congress during President Clinton’s impeachment trial.

Clinton's handwritten edits to his State of the Union speech.

Clinton’s handwritten edits to his State of the Union speech.

Loved the vintage feel of the Post-it note tags.

Loved the vintage feel of the Post-it note tags.

Since so many memos and letters were addressed to the President, it was apparently important to note which ones he had actually read.

Since so many memos and letters were addressed to the President, it was apparently important to note which ones he had actually read.

There was a marvelous collection of thank you notes on display.  This was a terrific one from Sheryl Crow who thanked the Clintons for letting her perform at their inauguration.  One thing was clear from these letters. . . .the Clintons have impeccable manners and that most highly successful people do as well.

There was a marvelous collection of thank you notes on display. This was a terrific one from Sheryl Crow who thanked the Clintons for letting her perform at their inauguration. One thing was clear from these letters. . . .the Clintons have impeccable manners and that most highly successful people do as well.

Overall, the museum presented an impressive, yet human, tribute to William J. Clinton’s presidency. We all felt that there was a lot to appreciate and that it was well worth the visit.

It was turning dark as we left the library and we admired the Christmas tree and Menorah on display as we left.

It was turning dark as we left the library and we admired the Christmas tree and Menorah on display as we left.

On we drove through more rainy and cloudy weather to Memphis, Tennessee. We drove briefly through the city to take a few photographs.

A blurry welcome to Tennessee.

A blurry welcome to Tennessee.

Beale Street at night.

Beale Street at night.

Downtown Memphis.

Downtown Memphis.

Christmas lights at Graceland.

Christmas lights at Graceland.

Our dinner destination, Corky’s Ribs & BBQ was just outside the city and had rave reviews online as the best barbecue in Memphis.

2013-12-30-tennessee-corkyssign

We walked in and received a warm welcome. The entire restaurant staff made you feel like family. They asked about the weather, had cheery smiles and even sang along with the vintage blues and rock music playing in the restaurant (Elvis included, of course!).

The food was excellent. Every part was perfectly made, including the coleslaw and beans. The children opted for the least barbecue item on the menu, the spaghetti, but it must have been good as they ate all of it!

Corky's delicious barbecue and spaghetti combo plate.

Corky’s delicious barbecue and spaghetti combo plate.

Dessert, was, of course, awesome too.  We all shared and there was not one bite left.

Dessert, was, of course, awesome too. We all shared and there was not one bite left.

We had made it through a long, rainy day and we still had more weather to clear. We went to sleep with visions of weather reports in our heads. Would we awake to an ice storm and have to reroute our way home? We decided to be ready for anything.

 Posted by on December 30, 2013 General Tagged with: , , , ,
Dec 292013
 
A typical building in downtown Santa Fe with the New Mexico flag.

A typical building in downtown Santa Fe with the New Mexico flag.

New Mexico is one of my favorite states. We have been there only once before when we visited Albuquerque on a prior road trip but I distinctly remember how beautiful the landscape was and the distinctive southwest artistic style. I was looking forward to Santa Fe, best known as the city that inspired Georgia O’Keefe.

We had a great chance to practice our Spanish in Santa Fe.  The street signs in this photo are "Calle del Cielo" = "Street of Heaven" or "Street of the Sky."  intersecting with "Cerrillos Road" = "wild/uneven/rough/mountainous road"

We had a great chance to practice our Spanish in Santa Fe. The street signs in this photo are “Calle del Cielo” = “Street of Heaven” or “Street of the Sky.” intersecting with “Cerrillos Road” = “wild/uneven/rough/mountainous road”

We awoke in the morning and after breakfast, drove a short distance to the Museum of International Folk Art. I had chosen this museum primarily because they had an exhibit on the history of chocolate–a key food group in this family.

The museum complex housing the Museum of International Folk Art.

The museum complex housing the Museum of International Folk Art.

Loved this artful bus shelter.  It was a great reminder that opportunities to add more art in our lives are all around us.

Loved this artful bus shelter. It was a great reminder that opportunities to add more art in our lives are all around us.

The museum is located in a complex with 3 other museums. When you enter any one museum, you are offered the chance to buy a pass for all 3 museums. We had limited time so we just opted for the folk art museum. The other interesting aspect of their admissions policy is that they only charge for adults. Children under 16 are free.

The first exhibit we saw was on Japanese kite making. There were gorgeous Japanese painted kites hanging from the ceiling and artfully displayed on the walls.

The kite exhibit entrance.

The kite exhibit entrance.

2013-12-28-santafe-takokichi-kitecrazydefinition

When we first entered the exhibit, there was a special surprise for children. Before I show it to you, here is my imagined conversation between the person who came up with this idea and the museum’s director:

Idealist: “I have a great idea for how to engage children in our museum exhibitions!”

Director: “Great! What is it?”

Idealist: “Well, when children view art, they want to become part of it and create some for themselves. We can have the children make art right there in the gallery next to the art on display!”

Director: “Are you crazy?! That will make such a mess! We can’t have bits of craft supplies strewn all over the gallery. What if it gets on the art and damages it? Plus, a messy art station will detract from the enjoyment of the exhibition. Let’s just have the children use the classrooms down the hall.”

Idealist: “Of course we will be careful. I will choose a minimal mess craft and organize it in a way that won’t make a mess. You’ll see. It will be great!”

Director: “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

And it was a great idea! The craft station itself was beautifully made. There was a small custom-made table. Instructions for how to do the craft were printed on a large poster-size paper and mounted under a sheet of glass that served as the tabletop. There was a custom-made wooden box to contain all the art supplies necessary, each one organized in a size-appropriate space. The craft itself didn’t involve any tiny, messy pieces and mostly involved a small amount of cutting, some tying of string and taping. It was truly genius! No one needed to be there to man the art station. It was obvious to children and adults how to do the craft and clean up afterward. And the kites they made were wonderful!

The organizational perfection of the kite craft-making table.

The organizational perfection of the kite craft-making table.

Making kites right there in the exhibit was amazing!

Making kites right there in the exhibit was amazing!

Admiring the finished kite craft.

Admiring the finished kite craft.

After our crafts were completed, we toured the exhibit and saw kites of all sizes and shapes. There were enormous kites and tiny kites, square kites and people-shaped kites. It really made you think about kites in a whole new way. An interesting organizational lesson here. . . one of the most vexing organizational problems when it comes to kites is how to keep all the kite strings from becoming tangled in a horrible mess. One complex kite showed that the answer seems to be to braid all the strings together.

An incredible exercise in patience -- braiding kite string!

An incredible exercise in patience — braiding kite string!

The next gallery we saw was an amazing exhibit on cooking, particularly how the blend of ingredients from Europe and the Americas changed the way both places cooked. The Americas introduced foods like potato, tomato, avocado, corn, chile, squash, chocolate and vanilla. Europeans introduced cabbage, lettuce, onions, garlic, peaches, figs and quince. I loved the recreations of the Spanish Colonial kitchens with their blue tile accents.

Detail from one of the recreated Spanish Colonial kitchens.

Detail from one of the recreated Spanish Colonial kitchens.

The exhibit on chocolate was a relatively small part of the whole exhibit but left us with the fascinating fact that the chocolate we enjoy today is the result of the blending of cultures. Spanish colonists found the chocolate drink enjoyed by their American counterparts interesting but not to their taste. However, once blended with sugar, vanilla and cream, it became a delectable passion.

We learned about mate, a South American drink made from a sort of holly berry that seems to have a passionate following, much like coffee. We also learned that chile is the most famous export from New Mexico. New Mexico retains the Spanish spelling of “chile,” rather than the Naahautl spelling, “chilli” or the modern “chili pepper.”

The Museum of International Folk Art excelled in helping people to use what they had seen at the museum to transform their own lives. At the end of the exhibit, there was a recipe exchange station, where you could either take copies of some of the museum’s recipes or write down a recipe of your own to share with others. It was fun to flip through the book and see in people’s own handwriting their favorite recipes.

The recipe exchange station.

The recipe exchange station.

Another interactive element in the museum was this scent station.  Many museums are incorporating scent in their exhibits these days.  Usually the scent has long since worn off and there is no scent to perceive.  I am pleased to report that this scent station was fully functional and wonderful.

Another interactive element in the museum was this scent station. Many museums are incorporating scent in their exhibits these days. Usually the scent has long since worn off and there is no scent to perceive. I am pleased to report that this scent station was fully functional and wonderful.

We wandered through exhibits on carnival costumes, puppets, and “literatura de cordel,” an exhibit on books and printmaking. I was fascinated by all of these exhibits. It was interesting to realize that we tend to think of “art” through such a narrow lens and we relegate to “craft” anything that has a useful connotation. This museum caused me to reexamine that designation. There was so much “art” in these “crafts”– so many beautifully made pieces. It is hard to find this type of art exhibited anywhere else in such a beautiful way.

Another kid-friendly crafting station in the puppet gallery.

Another kid-friendly crafting station in the puppet gallery.

Another craft table where you could make your own story using stamps and paper.

Another craft table where you could make your own story using stamps and paper.

Not only were we learning about art but we were also learning about cultural histories. We learned that there are two classical themes in Brazilian folk art.

One example of one of the classical themes in Brazilian folk art -- the country bride and groom on horseback.

One example of one of the classical themes in Brazilian folk art — the country bride and groom on horseback.

Another classical theme in Brazilian folk art is the "retirantes," or people escaping the drought.  One recurring theme in "retirantes" art is a pipe-smoking grandmother on a donkey.

Another classical theme in Brazilian folk art is the “retirantes,” or people escaping the drought. One recurring theme in “retirantes” art is a pipe-smoking grandmother on a donkey.

In all of this art, there was so much emotion. Each piece demonstrated passion but also a sense of humor. It was also amazing how small some of the pieces were and yet how much could be conveyed in miniature.

The last exhibit hall was dedicated to the museum’s permanent collection. It was packed with mostly miniature art forms. There was so much to see. You could easily spend several hours in here. There is so much detail to appreciate.

View of a small portion of the museum's permanent collection.

View of a small portion of the museum’s permanent collection.

As an example of the beauty to be found in miniature.  This is a small detail of a Nativity scene from a large icon display.

As an example of the beauty to be found in miniature. This is a small detail of a Nativity scene from a large icon display.

At the end of the exhibit space, there is a wonderful bit of space planning. There is a brilliant children’s play area stocked with toys that seem to have been custom-made for the space. Next door is the gift shop. I parked my husband with the children and was able to shop in peace!

Enjoying the play area.

Enjoying the play area.

The unbelievable selection of holiday ornaments in the gift shop.

The unbelievable selection of holiday ornaments in the gift shop.

There were so many wonderful ornament choices in the gift shop. I restrained myself to three that I decided I just couldn’t live without. Here they are on my Christmas tree:

Knitted polar bear with chullo hat.

Knitted polar bear with chullo hat.

Russian Santa

Russian Santa

Wooden armadillo with bobble head.

Wooden armadillo with bobble head.

Since I didn’t have a purse, I had to go ask my husband for some money to pay for my ornament finds. For some couples, this could be the potential minefield of losing a purse, having to discuss and agree on every purchase decision. Fortunately, my husband did not object and handed over the credit card.

We left the museum where outside a strong wind was blowing and grey storm clouds were overhead.  We knew a winter storm was blowing west to east and it would be our job for the remainder of the trip to outrun it.  The children loved the wind as it helped them fly their kites.  We took some photos and headed into town for a brief lunch.

View from the museum plaza.

View from the museum plaza.

The museum had some of the most amazing winter landscaping.  It would seem almost impossible to have plants that would look good in wintertime but the museum managed to achieve it.

The museum had some of the most amazing winter landscaping. It would seem almost impossible to have plants that would look good in wintertime but the museum managed to achieve it.

We drove a short distance into downtown Santa Fe.

All over Santa Fe are these distinctive Christmas decorations on the rooflines of buildings. At first, they look like paper bags with candles in them but on closer inspection, they are wired with regular Christmas lights and plastic coverings to endure the weather.

All over Santa Fe are these distinctive Christmas decorations on the rooflines of buildings. At first, they look like paper bags with candles in them but on closer inspection, they are wired with regular Christmas lights and plastic coverings to endure the weather.

We had a special stop to make first. In conjunction with our museum exhibit on chocolate, we had to stop here.

Chocolate Santa Fe style at the Kakawa Chocolate House.

Chocolate Santa Fe style at the Kakawa Chocolate House.

The Kakawa Chocolate House offers unique Santa Fe style chocolate. There are traditional chocolate confections to enjoy (with exotic flavors like pine nuts, basil and Earl Grey tea) but the shop is most famous for its “chocolate elixirs.”

The enticing chocolate case at Kakawa Chocolate House.

The enticing chocolate case at Kakawa Chocolate House.

A "chocolate elixir" served in beautiful china.

A “chocolate elixir” served in beautiful china.

The chocolate elixirs are brewed in pots on the counter and you can choose from numerous flavors. For the children, we opted for a sweet version with chocolate, vanilla and sugar. (From the museum experience, you might say “Spanish-style.”) For myself, I wanted to try one of the chocolate-chile mixtures. “You should taste it first,” the man behind the counter warned. I had a small sample and it was rich and chocolaty but it also burned with fire! It gave a new meaning to “hot” chocolate. “Whoah! That is too much for me,” I said. “How about a half and half mixture?” he suggested. He mixed mine with half chile chocolate and half sweet. It was the most exotic cup of hot chocolate I have ever tasted!

The shop owners then generously offered to let me and the children go back into the kitchen to see how the chocolates were made. There were several chefs dipping truffles and making caramels as well as preparing the mixtures for the chocolate elixirs. It was an incredible treat to see this in action!

We exited the kitchen and sat down to enjoy our chocolate elixirs and caramels. The restaurant just happened to have one table and chairs set sized for children. My children were thrilled to have a real life “tea party.” The caramels we tried were amazing. One was flavored with rose petals and another with lavender. They were all amazing. I have never tasted chocolate anything like this before. One of my favorite movies is “Chocolat” with Juliette Binoche, which is basically the story of a woman who brings a unique chocolate shop to a sleepy French town and awakens everyone to life. Visiting the Kakawa Chocolate House was about as close as you can come to bringing this movie to life.

We didn't order a chocolate elixir for my son, figuring he would share with the rest of us.  His sister was displeased when he took over her mug.  (I also love my daughter's chocolate nose in this picture.)

We didn’t order a chocolate elixir for my son, figuring he would share with the rest of us. His sister was displeased when he took over her mug. (I also love my daughter’s chocolate nose in this picture.)

Since the rest of the family cannot sustain itself on chocolate alone, we drove on to downtown Santa Fe for some lunch.

A flock of birds circling the rooftops in downtown Santa Fe.

A flock of birds circling the rooftops in downtown Santa Fe.

We ate at a Subway but in a wonderful boutique shopping mall. I did some quick window shopping on my way to the car.

Christmas ball decorations in the shopping mall.

Christmas ball decorations in the shopping mall.

A wonderful mohawk-style ski hat from a store called "Mayan Art."

A wonderful mohawk-style ski hat from a store called “Mayan Art.”

Lots of Southwest style turquoise and silver jewelry to admire.

Lots of Southwest style turquoise and silver jewelry to admire.

Santa Fe was everything that I hoped it would be and more. There is something quite magical about this place and it is truly an artistic mecca.

With the storm deadline approaching, we drove out of Santa Fe.

We drove past the Santa Fe state Capitol, the only round Capitol building in the United States and a unique architectural change.

We drove past the Santa Fe state Capitol, the only round Capitol building in the United States and a unique architectural change.

2013-12-28-santafe-landscape2

2013-12-28-santafe-landscape3

2013-12-28-santafe-landscape4

2013-12-28-santafe-landscape5

2013-12-28-santafe-landscape6

As we approached the Texas border, the landscape became more flat and distinctively Texan.

2013-12-28-texas-landscape-cows

2013-12-28-texas-waterwindmill

2013-12-28-texasborder-72ozsteak

One oversight of my trip planning was forgetting to figure in time changes. It didn’t matter much on the trip west because we kept gaining an hour here and there. It was a bigger problem on the trip back where we were losing an hour here and there and driving more frequently in darkness.

2013-12-28-texasborder-sunset2

What a sunset!

What a sunset!

It’s not often that I was able to take any usable pictures after the sun went down but there were so many lights in parts of Texas that I got a few visible shots.

Nighttime in Texas.

Nighttime in Texas.

A great blurred shot of the enormous cross outside a church in Amarillo.  You can see the daytime shot in our previous road trip post, here. http://www.beruly.com/?p=2453

A great blurred shot of the enormous cross outside a church in Amarillo. You can see the daytime shot in our previous road trip post, here.

We drove on into the night, stopping briefly for dinner at a truck stop along the way until we reached our hotel near Oklahoma City.

P.S. Thanks for the great comments on the last post! Please be sure to check out Ben’s comment on use of the word “Anasazi.”

 Posted by on December 29, 2013 General Tagged with: , , , ,