Category Archives: travel

Localista At Large: Shopping, shopping, and more shopping!

At San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art

Dear Reader:

I have now spent many hours trolling through gift shops and wandering in that aimless touristy way that is at once relaxing and exhausting in equal measure. The Teen and I managed the public transportation options yesterday, starting out with the MTS express bus, the 150, from just across the street in La Jolla down to Old Town. There, we procured a couple of Compass passes from a vending machine at the trolley station–three-day passes that would allow us unlimited bus and trolley rides until Wednesday.

Picture the trolley/bus station at Old Town. Two sets of tracks divided by concrete walkways and covered benches. A few bus lanes dotted with more benches with signage listing the various routes going north and south. An underground passageway between the bus and trolley lines–the walls of said passageway artfully decorated with red roof tiles and large stones in wavy shapes.

The trolley are like above-ground subway trains– bright, shiny red on the outside and very clean inside. Finding the right trolley and getting Downtown was no problem yesterday. Soon we were deposited a block or so from our destination, Seaport Village, a recreated seaport development of small shops and restaurants along the waterfront, not far from the giant ship museums and the Fish Market Restaurant.

We ended our day at the Kansas City BBQ where the bar scene from TOP GUN was filmed. This very casual rib joint was laid-back with checkered plastic tablecloths, styrofoam cups for our sodas, and really hot and salty fries. We didn’t order any ribs, but the smell was spicy and sweet wafting from the table behind us. In the bar area, people sat in close quarters at the worn bar over which hung Navy caps–I’m assuming they were donated by military customers over the years. Signed photos on the wall included Richard Dean Anderson and Brooke Shields and a bunch of athletes I didn’t bother to look at. Sorry sports fans.

Today, we intended to go to Balboa Park for some art & culture, but the thought of navigating the MTS again just made me feel tired before we even started. We opted for another foray into La Jolla Village where we did spend a good hour and a half at the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art before shopping, refueling at the Brick & Bell Cafe, more shopping, and meeting Hubby down at the cove where the sea lions were diving and flapping and honking beneath a cloudy afternoon sky.

Dinner at the hotel “social hour” ended our day as we couldn’t seem to muster up any enthusiasm for dinner out. Early to bed. Sea World, hopefully, tomorrow.

So, here are the highlights from our last couple of days.

Hotel Suite Kitchen

Hotel Suite Kitchen

Our hotel suite kitchen where I’ve composed some good, fresh salads as well as pasta and even garlic bread. Avocado with everything!

Seaport Village Flag

Seaport Village Flag

Seaport Village: a cute shopping area, waterfront district.

Kites over the waterfront

Kites over the waterfront

Watching the kites flying over the waterfront park at Seaport Village was relaxing…and chilly!

Wax Candle Artist

Wax Candle Artist

Balls of wax are dipped into colored wax and become beautiful, one-of-a-kind works of art. We had fun testing out many of the wax balls beneath the handy spotlights before choosing a few to bring home. The artist was very friendly and agreed to pose for us after explaining her process. Can you see the colored wax buckets beside her?

Top Gun Hats

Top Gun Hats

Here are the hats hanging over the bar at Kansas City BBQ. Remember Tom Cruise singing “She’s lost that loving feeling?” Here’s where it happened.

Art meets sci-fi

Art meets sci-fi

At the Museum of Contemporary Art, the main exhibit featured art inspired by science fiction. This one was based on a mythological sci-fi story about slaves dumped overboard in the Great Lakes who created a lost world beneath the water. Note the eyeballs beneath the waves. Cool, I say. Sketchy, says the Teen.

Flower People

Flower People

Another artist created a world where people were able to genetically combine with plants. These are the flower people of her imagination.

Echoes Too

Echoes Too

Walking down the street with no particular destination in mind, imagine my delight when I spotted–tadaa–a resale clothing store in ritzy La Jolla Village! Echoes Too Resale Shop carried some pretty impressive name brands. I especially liked a slinky black jersey Calvin Klein cocktail dress and a nice white cotton shirt. However, I didn’t feel like trying on clothes. It was enough to have found the shop and snap a photo, I guess, for this Localista.


The Teen and I spotted the Brick & Bell Cafe from across the street and zipped right over. It sits on a quiet back street across from a shoe repair shop and dry cleaners…and a few locals were hanging out at the outside cafe tables and reading and chatting and greeting each other. We split a chocolate chip scone and drank cappucinos. It felt like Europe to me, somehow. Must’ve been a certain vibe. That and all the languages we heard on the street. La Jolla draws people from all over the world. I’ve heard snippets of French and strands of Italian, watched people of all shapes and sizes and ages and colors brushing past each other in and out of shops and restaurants. There is nothing like getting out of small-town rural Maine and into a large, metropolitan city to wake up one’s interest in culture and cultures!

Localista At Large: Life’s a Zoo

Driving in Point Loma

Driving in Point Loma

Before heading to the San Diego Zoo yesterday, we drove over to Craig’s work at the Point Loma Naval Base so he could pick up some tickets. It is so weird to see palm trees and cacti and things like giant aloe vera lining the roads. The homes are definitely in a southwestern stucco style with red tile roofs and dry-climate landscaping on their sloping house-lots situated on the hills rising up from the Pacific. I find this architectural style/attitude restful somehow. I imagine siestas and late-afternoon mojitos and entertaining around the hot-tub in the evening.

Local Weeklies

Local Weeklies

Just wondering what kind of work I could do around here to support my deluxe lifestyle dreams. Maybe write for one of these local weeklies? Nah, I’d miss the Reporter too much. (Speaking of which, I’m still waiting for SRC-TV to get their video problem fixed so I can watch the propane tank hearing!)

Life's a Zoo

Life’s a Zoo

Balboa Park is an arts and culture mega-complex that include the San Diego Zoo, a cultural arts center called Centro Cultura de la Raza, the Mingei International Museum, the Museum of Photographic Arts, a science center, an air & space museum, the San Diego Art Institute, and more! I can’t even begin to imagine how this is possible–the closest I can imagine is the Mall in Washington D.C. If I had my way, I would spend the rest of our trip here…but when I say as much to the Teen I get a pained “Mo-o-o-o-om!” I get it. Shopping is much more exciting when you are some-teen-years-old and on a long trip with your middle-aged parents. Still, I will insist on at least one day here other than our zoo day. Mom’s pick day. I better chose with care. [Looking at one hand]History. [Looking at another hand]Art. History. Art. History? Art? Arghhh! How will I decide?

Flamingo Yoga

Flamingo Yoga

Maybe if I make like a pink flamingo and get into some really good yoga poses, I will become much more zen about the whole thing and just take life as it comes.

Of two minds...or two giraffes about it.

Of two minds…or two giraffes about it.

I’m really of two minds about it.

Carvings on the bamboo

Carvings on the bamboo

Anyone can take photos of the animals–but how about the little details like all the graffiti carved into the bamboo lining the pathways? I thought it looked kinda artsy, if delinquent.

Skytram across the zoo

Skytram across the zoo

We ended our zoo day with a really zippy trip across the park on the Skytram. I had lost my ticket (why did I think putting it in my pocket with my iPhone/camera/recording device was a good idea?), but they let me on after a quick glance at Hubby’s credit card receipt which he was smart enough to put in his wallet. Love that guy. So happy to be out here with him and the Teen. I wonder if this will be our last big family trip before graduation in a few years?

So anyway, after walking around at the zoo all day yesterday, the Teen and I took it easy and decided to hang around the hotel today. We spent an hour at the gym on the elliptical and treadmill and used the free-weights. Then we did some reading and sunning beside the pool, hit the hot tub, and came home to change for dinner.

Hanging Around

Hanging Around

I read all those weeklies and caught up on all the local news, views, and happenings. Also checked out the real estate. Yeah, in the term California Dreamin’ the operative word is, indeed, “dreaming.” That’s okay. I’m enjoying a glass of sangria in our living room area, writing up my blog post for the day, and waiting for everyone else to finish getting ready for dinner.



Can’t wait to head out to the Embarcadero tomorrow, San Diego’s waterfront district with ships and shopping…and the Kansas City Barbeque–the restaurant made famous in TOP GUN. I had no idea when I watched that movie last week that this excursion was “on the menu!” I might even get Hubby to drive me out to Miramar.

Localista At Large: California Dreamin’

La Jolla Cove

La Jolla Cove

Dear Reader:

The Teen and I joined Hubby on the West Coast this week, and are immersing ourselves in the laid-back California lifestyle as much as possible, staying in the seaside community of La Jolla which is home to the University of California San Diego, the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, and the Salk Institute. La Jolla also offers a quaint art & shopping village, sea lion watching, impressive sandy cliffs leading down to sheltered beaches, great restaurants (avocado is in just about everything–I’m in dining heaven!), and perfect, and I mean that literally, weather. Every day has been in the low 70’s, with morning fog clearing to blue sky and bright sunshine.

Mormon Temple

Mormon Temple

The Mormon Temple simply glows and looks more like a castle than a church. Wikepedia tells me that the exterior is made of marble chips in stucco which is why it shines so ethereally against the sky. The Teen and I saw it from the parking lot of a shopping center where we had gone to stock up on some groceries for the week.

Sea Lions at La Jolla Cove

Sea Lions at La Jolla Cove

The next day, we hopped on the hotel shuttle to La Jolla Cove where we stood watching the sea lions basking on the rocks. There was ample opportunity for people-watching, too. Snorkeling, diving, and swimming are all favorite pastimes here. We walked the pathway along the ocean and Scripps park, watching the waves and enjoying the breeze. Heading up Jenner Street, we left the ocean and headed into the village for some shopping and lunch.

Arugula Salad

Arugula Salad

I hate to admit this, but I can’t remember the name of the restaurant–it was on Girard Avenue, not far from Cody’s, and above a Thai place. My credit card says “Stella,” but I can’t find it on Anyway, we had an amazing arugula salad with hearts of palm, avocado (naturally), and shaved parmigiano. Yum! Later, we stopped into a juice bar for some healthy and hydrating smoothies.

The Teen found a pair of great crocheted shorts at a clothing store. The clerk was a woman who grew up in New York City and moved out here awhile ago. Her family moved out with her, and she says she’d never want to move back east. The Teen also mentioned that everyone seems really happy here. Is it because of the climate or, as I suspect, because we are in La Jolla–a very well-to-do community in San Diego?

You know, when you don’t have to worry about where your mortgage payment is coming from and you don’t have to chose between medications or electricity for the month, you might experience a bit less stress. A for-sale sign on a condo in La Jolla Village listed the price as $800,000! Okay, having money might not make you HAPPIER, per se, but it certainly takes the edge off, doesn’t it?

Our first evening in La Jolla, Hubby drove us over to Torrey Pines where we climbed down the stairs built into steep sand cliffs, ended up on the sheltered beach, and did a little jogging, a little sprinting, a little walking…and I practiced tree pose while looking out at the Pacific. I saw my first nudist–unfortunately. Not a fan of public nudity. Also saw people practicing paragliding up on the cliffs at the Torrey Pines Gliderport while a guy played guitar, providing a soundtrack for the graceful, floating gliders.

palm trees galore

palm trees galore

Walking everywhere provides plenty of time for looking at the different types of palm trees, cacti, and flowers that are so different here in this dry climate.

Statue outside the Museum of Contemporary Art.

outside the Museum of Contemporary Art.

San Diego has alot to offer if you are into art and history. This big guy has a mechanical arm raising and lowering a hammer outside the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla. I hope to talk the Teen into checking out the museum…maybe later today!

Outside Kate Spade

Outside Kate Spade

For you fashionistas out there, here is a shot of the Teen in front of Kate Spade. I’m sure we’ll be shopping some more–I’m hoping to find some consignment shops while I’m out here that I can share with you. That pretty much covers days 1 & 2 of our California Dreamin’ adventure. We spent Day 3 at the San Diego Zoo. Post coming soon!

Pelicans at the cove---they have their own gliders attached!

Pelicans at the cove—they have their own gliders attached!

Writing My Mind To Hawaii

Beach At Waikiki

I have finally perfected the magic of teleportation. On this wintery Valentine’s Day in Maine, with a cold front settled in over the landscape like a cool-pack, I have been luxuriating in Hawaii. Waikiki to be exact.

I’ve been listening to slack-string guitar played by an older man wearing a splashy shirt and a lei (thanks to Pandora Radio).

Giant Shirt

I’ve been laughing with my sister at a luxury hotel while the lights from the tiki torches dance, reflected, in the water of the pool while we slurp down tropical drinks garnished with pink umbrellas stuck in pieces of fresh pineapple (thanks to my imagination).

The air is warm and balmy (thanks to the electric heater).

What exactly is this, you ask? Inspired by a trip we took a few years ago, I’ve been writing a story set in Hawaii, and what could be better than that on a mid-winter day? The story is aimed at the confession market because, well, I have to confess that I love writing them.

Bird of Paradise Plant

I hope that this story will find a home in one of the two confession magazines, True Story or True Confessions, but even if I don’t make a sale on this one, at least I’ve had a most enjoyable trip writing my mind to Hawaii today.

Sunset on the North Shore

Aloha! And Happy Valentine’s Day.

Day 60 and Beyond: Life After D.C.

or Welcome Home to Maine

From the U.S. Botanical Garden

Dear Reader:

I’m sure you’ve figured out that this isn’t REALLY day sixty. I’m definitely into the “beyond” portion of the title, typing from my own cozy office with a window looking out over the encroaching wild blackberry brambles, the downed pine trees rotting on the forest floor, and the still-green leaves of immature maples and oaks struggling to grow beneath the evergreen giants. No more view of the blue roof of the Nordstrom’s across the street at the Pentagon City Mall or the gothic spires of the National Cathedral poking up from the far-distant D.C. skyline or the planes circling around toward Reagan National one after the other after the other as the day closes and the sky turns first pink and then dark and the lights begin to glow in all the windows of the high-rise jungle around me.

Flower Tower

The Teen and I spent our last day in the city in a whirlwind tour of the United States Botanic Garden, a must-see for any of you who may visit the capital city in the future. The day was hot, but dry and sunny, and the plantings absolutely amazed this neophyte gardener. I loved the outdoor gardens, especially the giant wooden towers planted with different types of heat-loving plants and flowers.


Inside were tropical plants, a children’s garden,endangered plants, and an area dedicated to “useful” plants either for food or medicine. We spent a few hours browsing around in the cool, moist environment before heading over to the Museum of the American Indian to finally catch lunch at the cafe, something I didn’t want to miss on this trip.

Southwest Native Foods

The cafeteria is set up to offer foods from all the different American areas. I was tempted by the northeast section with its roast turkey and cranberry preserves, but I figured there would be time for that around Thanksgiving. Instead I went with southwestern spicy rice, an enchilada of sorts filled with roasted or sauteed squashes and onion topped with a tomato paste and cheese, and the most delicious sauteed red cabbage. I ate the entire plate, and the light vegetarian fare left enough room for a dessert of bread pudding studded with raisins.

The Teen had chicken fingers and fries.

Revived, we hiked up the hill so the Teen could visit the Library of Congress. After oggling the beautiful space for an hour or so, we strolled next door to the Supreme Court where two demonstrators stood mute with duct tape over their mouths. I’m still not sure how they expected to get their message across as they carried no signs, but it was probably something to do with freedom of speech.

(Here’s an idea: if you want to protest something, communicate somehow!)

Tired and hot,(did I mention D.C. afternoons are scorchers?)we sat beneath a shady tree in front of the Capitol Building for a few minutes, listening to a couple of security police chatting with each other, and then we chugged on down to 7th Street for a cup of iced coffee at the corner Starbucks one last time.

Moongate Garden at Sackler Gallery

We fueled up on caffein and sugar–enough mojo for a quick swing through the Castle for souvenir shopping, the Museum of African Art, and finally a super-quick breeze through the Sackler & Freer Gallery of Asian Art.

Sunset at Gravelly Point

Our last evening in D.C. we ate a picnic supper at Gravelly Point while watching the planes take off right over our heads, knowing that in less than 24 hours we’d be on one of those aircraft.

The next day and at the airport waiting for our flight, we felt the building shudder, stop for a minute or two, and then begin to shake and shiver in earnest. The television monitors were already tuned to CNN, and we soon learned about the fairly major earthquake rolling beneath Virginia, D.C., and outward. I said, “I guess D.C. is just so sad to see us leave.”

We were on the plane only an hour behind schedule.

Before sunset, we looked down on the dark green of Maine’s coastline and spotted a large crescent of pale beach and a light-green swath behind it. “I think that’s Old Orchard and Pine Point . . . and the marsh!” I said. Soon we could see Portland, South Portland, and the airstrip–an hour and a half and a world away from metropolitan Washington D.C.

Welcome home to Maine!

Pine Point

The following days found us hanging out at our usual spot on the beach at Pine Point, school shopping, and acclimating ourselves to life in the slow lane again. A day went by with a grand total of TWO cars passing my house. The skies clouded over. My allergies and asthma returned with a vengeance. Hurricane Irene hit on Sunday and knocked out our power for four days.

Welcome home to Maine.

I don’t mean to sound as bitter as a garden cucumber grown over a dry summer. I’m feeling less claustrophobic every day. I have my kitchen back. I’ve been to Marden’s and Goodwill and the Limerick Supermarket and Hannaford’s and the wonderful farm-stand near the Waterboro Public Library. I’ve checked out a couple of books. I’ve been to the yarn shop and the tea house with my friend, Sandra. On another afternoon between appointments in Biddeford, friend Donna served me a wonderful green salad with slices of roast beef and crumbled feta and dressed with olive oil and balsamic viniagrette. Heavenly!

I have bought yarn for a hat and a bag, have lugged home pickling salt and spices to try my hand at pickles with the cukes my parents gave me from their garden (not bitter), and while up visiting parents and collecting my much-missed pooch, Delilah, my dad bought me a lobster roll and my mom baked me a blueberry pie.

Welcome home to Maine. For real.

Days 52-57: The Temple of My Familiars

Library of Congress

Dear Reader:

The title of Alice Walker’s book, THE TEMPLE OF MY FAMILIAR, has been running through my head since Wednesday when I finally visited the Library of Congress, not because the Walker book has anything to do with the library (except I’m sure a copy is housed in the vast stacks) but because the building, named the Thomas Jefferson Building in 1980, feels like a temple to me. A temple of learning. A temple of collective knowledge. A temple of books.

Outside the Library

Books As Familiars

According to Wikipedia, a “familiar” is the name given to spirit helpers, often taking the guise of animals, in the practice of witchcraft or other magical practices. If I have any sort of familiars, they take quite a different form than the usual cats or owls or toads.

My familiars are books.

Stephen King, in his book ON WRITING, speaks of writing as the only real form of magic he knows. A writer has a picture in his mind. He puts down words on paper. A reader picks up the book and voila! A picture forms in the reader’s mind. The book (or article, letter, Facebook post, text message) is the vehicle the magic uses to pass knowledge or ideas or images from one person to another without actually speaking. Writing is magic. Books, familiars.

The Great Hall

History of the Library

So how did this temple to learning come to be? The library was established in 1800 as a resource for Congress and was housed in the Capitol building. It was destroyed (burned, of course. Why is it that books, like witches or heretics, are always being burned?) by British troops in 1814. At that time, Thomas Jefferson had one of the largest, most comprehensive personal libraries in America, a collection he’d been gathering for fifty years. He offered his library to Congress, arguing for the inclusion of many types of literature, languages, and ideas that went beyond the usual legislative materials. Congress appropriated funds for the purchase of the library in 1815. The current building, constructed in the Italian Renaissance style, was finished in 1897. It now houses 144 million items!

Minerva Mosaic


Beyond the functionality of storing so much knowledge, the building itself is architecturally gorgeous and decorated with classical imagery. Take the lovely Minerva, for example. My photo does not capture the beauty of the mosaic depicting the Roman goddess, Minerva, the guardian of civilization. Click HERE to see the mosaic in all its glory. Minerva is known as the goddess of poetry, wisdom, medicine, commerce, weaving, crafts, and magic. (Wikipedia) She is often depicted with an owl (a familiar!) to symbolize wisdom.

Gets me wondering: what would our Puritan forefathers think of all this pagan symbolism in the heart of our nation? I have the feeling they’d be right here with the pitchforks and torches claiming they were ridding the Capitol of satanic forces and restoring it to Christianity. (See Salem Witch Trials). Which also leads to me wonder if it is really possible for ONE deity (even divided into three parts) to symbolize all the concepts we hold dear. Is is really so very wrong to picture Wisdom as a beautiful goddess, especially one who holds a spear in hand, ready to defend civilization?

Painted Ceiling

Library Card

It’s all well and good to peer up at the painted, vaulted ceiling and heave an admiring sigh or two (or a hundred), but what about actually using the library to, well, research something? The doors to the main reading room were tantalizingly near with a “Do Not Enter” sign standing guard. Obviously, casual, walk-in visitors to the library are not allowed entrance. We were able to climb some stairs and look down into the main reading room with its wooden reading tables, red walls, soaring rotunda ceiling and tantalizing glimpses of stacks surrounding the area. No photography allowed, though. Click HERE to see a photo on the library’s website.

Speaking with a docent, I asked “How do you get to use the library?” She explained about signing up for a reader identification card which allows you to visit the reading rooms and to request materials for study. The thought of actually sitting in that room, searching the databases, requesting materials from the stacks, and reading beneath that rotunda makes me giddy. And what must it be like to work here at the library with all its collected knowledge organized and housed and available for anyone who wishes to learn? The website says there are openings for volunteer docents, and if I were going to stay here in D.C. that is something I would seriously consider. If this is a temple to wisdom, would working here make me a priestess?

Fountain of Neptune

This day, our visiting friends (D.J. Donny Bess and Sweet Caroline who flew down from Maine) and I looked around at some of the exhibits and then headed back outside where Neptune guards from his fountain perch overlooking the East Front of the Capitol Building.

Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress

Walking across the street and looking back, I took a final look at the temple of my familiars.


Days 45-51: Over the Rainbow And Beyond

Coral Exhibit at Natural History Museum

Dear Reader:

Friends from Maine, T. and Babycakes, arrived last Monday, and we took them on a whirlwind tour of D.C. this week, trying to fit in as much of the capitol as we could. Take the tour with us from the privacy of your home. Ready? Go!

Monday Evening at the Capitol and National Mall

Capitol Building At Night

T. snapped this picture of the Capitol Building while we sat near the fountain and listened to the U.S. Navy band perform for a large group of happy listeners. We watched kids twirl in their pretty dresses–and a grown-up woman dancing, too. A guy dressed in black and sporting multiple piercings sat beside us and called home to let someone know he had made it to D.C. After awhile, we walked down the Mall toward the Washington Monument, stopping to watch a few minutes of GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES playing outside while people sat on their blankets and beach chairs enjoying the open-air show. We walked on until we could glimpse the White House, and we called it a night.

Tuesday at the Natural History Museum

Eels With Pretty Patterns

It was a very colorful day at the Natural History Museum from corals to butterflies to gemstones to a rainbow over the Capitol Building in the late afternoon sun shower.

Butterfly 1

Butterfly 2

Monarch Butterfly Chrysalides

The Monarch chrysalides looked liked gemstones set with gold . . .

Gemstones and Crystals

. . . while the gemstones and crystals sparkled in every color of the rainbow.




Green and Blue

Indigo and Violet

As we walked toward the Metro, across the National Mall, a little shower sprinkled down while the sun shone, and a rainbow arched over the shining white Capitol Building. A beautiful, magical ending to the day.

Capitol Building With Rainbow

Wednesday and Thursday at the National Zoo

The Teen, Babycakes, T., and I got ourselves up early and hopped on the Metro up to the National Zoo. The shady park with its wide bricked pathways, leafy trees, pretty flowers, and lots of bamboo is a beautiful place to walk or jog or spend a day with the kids. The buildings do not open until 10 a.m., but you can still walk the grounds and see some of the animals up and about earlier in the morning.

Tian Tian (t-YEN t-YEN)

Out For a Morning Stroll

Charming Flamingos

Escaping the Zoo

Galapagos Turtle


Rooftop Silhouettes

There were so many wonderful animals to observe and to learn about. We really enjoyed the Bird House, the Great Cat area where the half-grown lion cubs wrestled and growled while momma lion played referee, the orangutan who swung himself across the park on the “O-Line”–a rope line that mimics the natural tree-swinging-friendly habitat of Asia. We saw zebras and a tiger and cheetas and a hairy tarantula. Snakes and prairie dogs and toucans and lizards. Ducks and . . . well, you get the picture.

Thursday Night Girl’s Night Out

After resting a bit, we hit the square for Girl’s Night Out. At the Lebanese Taverna we tried some Middle Eastern appetizers–chicken wings with a lemony-butter sauce, meatballs served with yoghurt, and hummus with pita bread.

Photo from T.

We sipped our drinks of mango juice (the Teen and Babycakes) and pomegranate champagne (T. and I). Best of all, we all had henna tattoos applied in gorgeous designs. Outside, a band played 80’s tunes, and when we were finished with our appetizers and drinks, we headed to the square to dance a little on the edge of the crowd.

The Art of Mehndi

(Henna art by Zahra of Salon Amina.

Receiving a mehndi or henna tattoo is meditative and healing, often used in rites of passage ceremonies, and is believed to be an offering of protection, love, and good fortune. The Teen and I were blessed to have the opportunity to enjoy a wonderful week with our good friends from home.


Friday at the Museum of American History

We spent a good part of the day at the Museum of American History. We caught the “Time Trial of John Brown,” toured the Price of Freedom exhibition, checked out the On The Move area, an exhibition about Phyllis Diller (funny!), saw Julia Child’s kitchen, perused the Paper Engineering exhibit, looked at scientific artifacts, and even took part in the flag folding ceremony!

Revolutionary Mess Kit

After the history museum, T and Babycakes headed out on their own, while I saw the Teen home for a little R & R. We met up with Hubby at the sculpture garden for a little bit of the Friday jazz concert, and then we came home to watch Barbra Streisand in FUNNY GIRL before crashing into bed.

Nap Time

Everybody needs their beauty sleep, after all

Saturday Morning Good-Byes:

T. and Babycakes headed out of D.C. early this morning, driving off on the ten-plus hour road-trip back up north to Maine where the Teen and I will be returning soon. I’m so impressed with their adventurous spirit, and T. and I have decided that trips to Portland–and Boston!–should be regular outings in the future. I agree.

While I am looking forward to my small-town home with its lakes and the library and friends and neighbors and field and forests and farms (and my dog!), I want to keep in touch with the city side of myself, even if it is only a few times a year. There is a certain energy in the city, a sizzle of art and music and culture and business and fashion and ideas that are different from the small town life. Both places are valuable. Both places are inspiring. I can have it all, can’t I? Or at least a bit of it all?

So, Dear Reader, which are you–country mouse or city mouse? Scribble me a note and leave it . . . Outside the Box.

Day 44: Big News from D.C.’s Newseum

Front Pages Exhibit on Pennsylvania Ave.

Dear Reader:

Pop quiz for all of you Outside the Box.

1) What five fundamental freedoms are guaranteed in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution?
2) What are the names of the five family members of The Simpson’s?

This was one of the questions asked our tour group by a docent at the Newseum, where Hubby and I spent the better part of yesterday and today learning a great deal about journalism in all its current and past forms. If you are at all interested in “the news” and have a chance to visit D.C., I recommend this museum which is situated right on Pennsylvania Avenue just a hop, skip, and a jump from the Capitol Building.

Here’s some of what we saw.

Graffiti on Berlin Wall

Five sections of the concrete Berlin Wall that separated East and West Berlin from 1961 until 1989. The West Berlin side was colorful with graffiti. The East Berlin side was almost bare, a visual representation of the difference between freedom and oppression.

Kazinsky's Cabin

The Unabomber’s cabin. Ted Kazinsky sent mail bombs to universities and airports in protest against industrialism. Kazinsky lived without running water or electricity inside the Montana cabin for seventeen years. His brother finally tipped off the FBI that Kazinsky might be the Unabomber they had been searching for after the Washington Post and the New York Times published his 35,000 word manifesto. The Kazinsky materials are part of an FBI exhibit at the Newseum.

Funny . . . But Not Really

David Horsey’s political cartoons. This exhibit was amusing after looking at more serious stuff like Pulitzer Prize photographs, Hurrican Katrina newspaper and television reporting, and the 1st Amendment exhibit.

Where the Action Is

View from the 6th floor terrace. Here you can see the beautiful Capitol Building, the National Gallery of Art (where the Da Vinci is located), the National Archives, and off in the distance a few more of the Smithsonian Buildings such as the M.O.A.I. and the Castle.

Pennsylvania Avenue

A great timeline exhibit is found up here telling the history of Pennsylvania Avenue. Did you know the Ku Klux Klan paraded down the avenue in 1925? In 2009, President Barack Obama walked down the same avenue during his Inaugural Parade. What a long way we’ve come. Too bad it took so long.

Blue chairs in The Food Section

The Food Section. This cafeteria is run by Wolfgang Puck, an award-winning celebrity chef. Hubby and I enjoyed an excellent lunch there yesterday.

Stick To Your Ribs

The ribs were fantastic, and the macaroni and cheese . . . what can I say? Melt in your mouth, creamy, cheesy, yummy.

Salad Plate

My salad concocted at the extensive salad bar was fresh, crisp, and satisfying with some pasta and some delicious blue cheese crumbles.

Bathroom Humor

Amusing “misquotes” highlighted in aqua tile in the ladies room.

Giant Comic Strips

No great newspaper is complete without The Funny Pages.

The Portland Press Herald

The front page of the Portland Press Herald from Portland, Maine.


The set of This Week with Christiane Amanpour on ABC. Since we watch “This Week” religiously every Sunday morning, Hubby and I were hoping to spot one of our favorite journalists on our Sunday visit. We got to the Newseum just before 10 pm, just as taping ended.

Ms. Amanpour and Me

Ms. Amanpour was right outside the studio when we got there. She graciously shook my hand and agreed to have her picture taken. I told her how thrilled I was to meet her and said, “I also saw you on Gilmore Girls.” She laughed and said, “That was fun.”

I am always impressed with Amanpour’s ability to ask just the right probing questions when she interviews politicians and the way she keeps the Round Table discussions running smoothly every Sunday (not always so easy to do, I imagine, with so many different personalities weighing in with their journalistic insights). Meeting her in person was amazing. Totally made my day.

Twisted Satellite Receiver

The twisted satellite receiver from the top of one of the Twin Towers in New York City against the backdrop of front pages from around the world reporting on the horrible story. This is found in the 9/11 Gallery.

There was so much more to see–Pulitzer Prize photographs, a page from a Gutenberg Bible, examples of newspapers from way back to the beginning of the printing press, important historical front pages, short films about topics such as sports reporting, bias, and race issues in journalism. The tickets we bought were good for two days, but really it would take at least a week to see and learn everything.

Reporting from Washington D.C, this is Shelley Burbank for Outside the Box.

(Answers–Question 1: Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, Freedom of Assembly, and Freedom of Petition. Question 2: Bart, Homer, Marge, Lisa, and Maggie.)

Day 40: Some “Catch-Up” With Those Fries

Dinner at the Austin Grill

Dear Reader:

With about three weeks left to go on our great Outside the Box in D.C. adventure, I’m beginning to wind down from my hyper-touristing. With the ‘Rents in town this past week, I got a little behind on my blog posts, so today is all about the Catch-Up.

July 23–Sustainability Symposium at NMAI

Sustainability Festival Pamphlet With Corn & Squash

Back on July 23, Hubby, the Teen, and I attended the Living Earth Festival at the Museum of the American Indian. I was determined to get to the “Creating a Climate of Change” symposium, where Jeremy Rifkin, a business consultant to multinational corporations, heads of state in the E.U., and other global entities, spoke on issues near and dear to my heart: global warming, peak oil, sustainability, localization, renewable energy resources and technology. Although he painted a grim picture, he also outlined a pathway to move forward. For me, it was almost a relief to hear someone “in the know” about world and business affairs affirming what I’ve been reading and learning about for the past three or four years. Peak oil is not a myth . . . it’s a reality we have already crested. Sustainable, renewable energy is not just for “greenies” and environmentalist hippie throwbacks to the 60’s and 70’s . . . it’s the wave of the future, if we are to have a future.

Symposium Poster

Heads of state are listening. From Rifkin’s website:

Mr. Rifkin is the principle architect of the European Union’s Third Industrial Revolution long-term economic sustainability plan to address the triple challenge of the global economic crisis, energy security, and climate change. The Third Industrial Revolution was formally endorsed by the European Parliament in 2007 and is now being implemented by various agencies within the European Commission as well as in the 27 member-states.

Granted, this is his own website, and self-promotion should be looked at with a skeptical eye. However, if you are interested in learning about what Rifkin thinks we need to do in order to survive in a low-carbon energy world, check out the NMAI blog post.

Beautiful, Living Earth

The two speakers following Rifkin were also knowledgeable and insightful. Gregory Cajete spoke passionately about the indigenous perspective on global climate change, comparing the indigenous communities to canaries in a coal mine–they feel the effects first. Melissa K. Nelson then spoke about the importance of re-indigenizing our food supply, talking about such issues as food sovereignty, the negative health impacts of our modern diet, and urging a return to slow, local foods.

After the symposium, we strolled outside to listen to some music by Native performers. The concert opened with a blessing performance by the Santa Fe Indian School Spoken Word Team. This may have been the most powerful student performance I’ve ever seen in my life. The emotion rolling off these young people through their strong voices was palpable in the air. When they finished, the group went to the side, and, crying, threw their arms around each other forming a tight ball of support and celebration. I strongly encourage you to click on the link above and see what I mean.

Plateros T-shirt

Later we heard the Plateros, a young blues rock band whose lead guitarist, Levi Platero, along with his brother/drummer Douglas and bass guitarist, Bronson Begay, seriously rocks with the sound of Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn.

I went home from the festival thoroughly inspired. Thanks MOAI for putting on this important event!

July 24–Dance DC Festival Downtown Battleground

Graffiti Artists

Hubby and I visited the portraits in the National Portrait Gallery on July 24 and luckily ran into the Downtown Battleground event outside between 7th and 9th Streets. It was hotter than Hades out there on the wide sidewalk, but we were thrilled to join a large crowd listening to drumming and watching some very talented African-style dancers. I don’t know how those young ladies kept going in that sweltering heat!

Dancers at Dowtown Battleground

The graffiti artists were hard at work with their spray cans on large pink “wall” set up for the event. These artists were up high on metal ladders, scooching down to the bottom of the “canvas”, and all over the spaces in between creating some very jazzy, bright, cool art.

Orange Image

Detail from Painting

American History Museum

These Boots Were Made For Leading

I already wrote about the visit with the ‘Rents to the American History Museum in my previous post, but time and theme did not permit me to add these boots to my Great D.C. Shoe Scavenger Hunt. Take a look at George Washington’s boots in the The Price of Freedom: Americans At War exhibit.

Chinese Lady's Shoe

I also found this bound-foot shoe tucked away in the Transportation exhibit. I won’t tell you exactly where. When you visit D.C. you’ll have to scavenge this one out on your own!


Waiting for the Train

Of course, we wouldn’t get anywhere without the Metro, man’s finest invention, IMO.

Typical Metro Station

All of the underground Metro stations look almost exactly alike, which I find reassuring. You find a Metro post, take an escalator down to the platform, and you know exactly what to expect . . . except for the passengers, of course. People always add the spice of variety.

From Holocaust Museum to Harry Potter Deathly Hallows

Holocaust Museum

On Saturday, the ‘Rents, Hubby, the Teen and I visited the Holocaust Museum off 15th Street. We were unable to get passes to the permanent exhibit (will have to do so before the end of my stay), but we had an excellent tour guide that ushered us through the Propaganda exhibit with all the old Nazi political posters, pamphlets, recordings, and timelines showing Hitler’s rise to power and the eventual horror of the Holocaust.

From National Holocaust Museum Website

Please go to see this important exhibit if you are able to get to D.C. Otherwise, click on the link and visit the museum online.

I was reminded how we have to be vigilant when watching one-sided news stations, when looking at legislation that blocks freedom of speech, press, and assembly in the name of safety (anybody thinking about the Patriot Act anymore?), and when reading blogs and other pieces of “journalism” . . . even this one! Check things out for yourself. Read. Think for yourself. It is so important–crucial–in a democracy.

3-D for Harry Potter

It might seem a bit of a jump to go from the Holocaust to Harry Potter, but when you think about it, there are some similar themes in the Hogwarts Saga. The “Dark Lord” wants to rid the magical community of “mud-bloods” and eventually takes over education and the press, uses torture and kidnapping to terrorize regular magical citizens into allowing his evil takeover of the government, and creates an “us against them” mentality in order to accomplish his ultimate desire for ultimate power.

We caught the movie on the Imax screen at the Museum of Natural History. The first floor of the museum was a madhouse before the show. A hot Saturday afternoon in the Dinosaur Exhibit? Don’t recommend it unless you are also one of the two thousand other families with small children under the age of eight trying to find something for the kiddos to do on a blistering hot pre-dinnertime afternoon. {{Shudder}}

(As an alternative, I’d suggest the hotel swimming pool. Take the kids out of school in the fall for a day at the museum instead. You’ll thank me.)

Like Neanderthals hiding from a predatory beast, we hid out in the Fossil Cafe for a half an hour and then gratefully entered the dim calm of the theater.

Dinner at Austin Grill

Outside Dining at Austin Grill

After the show, Hubby and I wanted to share our favorite D.C. restaurant (so far) with the ‘Rents and the Teen, so we trotted up 7th St. to E St. and the Austin Grill. This is a franchise, but so really good. The service is attentive, the Tex-Mex is delicious, and the prices are reasonable.


The Austin-tini wasn’t bad, either. Think Cosmopolitan, in pink.

Chalupa Salad

Everyone ordered burgers except for me. I had the Chalupa Taco Salad with Grilled Chicken. It comes in a deep-fried tortilla bowl with sour cream, tangy vinaigrette dressing, and guacamole–yummy!

And that is the “catch-up.” Yesterday, we browsed around in Alexandra again, and I’ll post some pics of new, fabulous finds–just wait until you hear about the Torpedo Factory!–over there in quaint Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. I absolutely love the place!

If I ever had to move . . . well, no need to think about that now since we are already here, Outside the Box In D.C.

Day 35: The Tea Party Solution?

Liberty Tree

At the Museum of American History, a representation of the Liberty Tree, a gathering spot for the Sons of Liberty in Boston (the original Tea Party) where they tarred and feathered tax collectors, hung tax collectors in effigy, and held protests and demonstrations against the ruling British government.

Dear Reader:

Here’s some good news. A couple savvy freshman “Tea Party” Republicans have a solution to the debt crisis they have unleashed on our stymied country. Prayer.

From this morning’s WASHINGTON POST: “Outside the House chamber, Boehner summoned members of the holdout GOP South Carolina delegation to his second-floor office just off the Capitol Rotunda. But he appeared to make little headway and, within minutes, freshman Reps. Mick Mulvaney and Jeff Duncan left the meeting, saying they were heading to a nearby chapel to pray for their leaders.”

Boy, I feel better, don’t you?

Outside the History Museum

The ‘Rents and I spent the better part of yesterday at the Museum of American History where we saw a demonstration of how people washed their clothes prior to the invention of washing machines, participated in an interactive, theatrical performance about the abolitionist martyr, John Brown, and browsed the Revolutionary and Civil War exhibits.

"John Brown"

John Brown was an abolitionist so convinced of the immorality of slavery that he resorted to violence and extremism, planning a raid on the Harper’s Ferry, Virginia arsenal in order to arm a slave uprising. Such an uprising would have led to the death of both slave and slaveholder. Slavery was a heinous institution in a country which supposedly valued personal freedom above all things. John Brown was, of course, morally right. He was courageous, taking bold action while others went about the business of trying to end slavery using less violent means. But what about his methods? Is violence justified? Do we believe throwing society into chaos is the one and only way to make things better?

The uprising failed, John Brown was captured, and then he was hung, a martyr of the abolitionist cause. The South refused to yield to Northern pressure, and in the end, massive and tragic violence ensued in the struggle to abolish slavery once and for all in the United States of America. The Civil War claimed 620,000 American lives. The South was ravaged. Resources were wasted. If we had it to do all over again, would we not try to find a peaceful way to bring about the end of slavery? Better yet, wouldn’t we sit down with our Founding Fathers and insist on freedom for ALL right from the very beginning?

Washboard In Tub

The temperature is rising back into the 100’s today in D.C., and I imagine tempers are heating up to dangerous levels on Capitol Hill as some lawmakers seem unwilling to put aside extreme positions in order to prevent possible financial chaos in a country already struggling with unemployment, rising prices, and uncertainty about the future. If we aren’t careful, those Depression Era washboards and tubs might be our future.

Our founding fathers built this country on compromise. In fact, when the Constitutional Convention came together in Philadelphia in 1787, a conflict between large and small states almost derailed the entire process. The “Great Compromise” was adopted, saving the Constitution.

So why is compromise suddenly a dirty word?

Don’t all sides have a point here? If the debt ceiling isn’t raised, if we don’t get our debt under control, and if we don’t begin the difficult process of moving over to a sustainable way of life, we might have nothing left to do but pray.