Category Archives: Museums

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!

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 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.

Day 31: Chillaxing At the Kogod Courtyard

Canopy over the Kogod Courtyard

Dear Reader:

With temperatures reaching 100F and humidity that made it feel more like 115F, what better way to escape the heat than take the yellow line downtown to the Kogod Courtyard for some funky jazz, board games, coffee and biscotti, and prime people-watching?

The Robert and Arlene Kogard Courtyard is a 28,000 square foot space canopied by a multi-paned atrium ceiling floating above the gorgeous Greek Revival building that houses the National Portrait Gallery and the American Art Museum. Built in 1836 as the U.S. Patent Office, the building is one of Washington D.C.’s oldest. The Teen and I escaped our apartment and the oppressive heat to wander around the museum corridors, soaking in the art (me) and texting (the Teen), and trying not to get on each other’s last nerve (a challenge).

"The Chief's Canoe" by Belmore Brown, about 1927

This landscape painting looked cool and inviting.

"Cape Cod Morning" by Edward Hopper, 1950

So did this Edward Hopper. Later, I noticed similarities between the two paintings. The girl’s posture in the window is like the man’s posture in the canoe. The trees are like mountains. The field, like the river.

"Looking For The Mountain" by Pat Steir, 1971

I was intrigued by the use of graph-type lines and grids on this modern painting. Math art. The Teen wasn’t impressed.

detail from "The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations' Millenium General Assembly"

We took a turn through the folk art exhibit, an impressive collection of primitive paintings, whirligigs, log carvings, bottlecap art, and an amazing installation of one man’s aluminum foil representation of heaven. James Hampton secretly filled his garage with this piece created between 1950 and 1964.

We then scooted over to the first floor of the Portrait Gallery where we saw paintings ranging from an Abraham Lincoln miniature to a large painting of Bill and Melinda Gates.

Pretty In Pink--Juliette Lowe

Juliette Gordon Lowe, the founder of Girl Scouts.

Walt Whitman

The Teen thought Walt Whitman was a dead ringer for Dumbledore. LEAVES OF GRASS meets HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS.

Light and Cool in the Courtyard

We strolled out to the courtyard where the jazz band, Funk Ark, was setting up for their five o-clock performance, part of the museum’s Take 5! summer series.

Board Game Cart

I love this concept! The museum makes board games available, offers wine and coffee and food from the Courtyard Cafe, introduces awesome bands like Funk Ark, and everyone just hangs out . . . chillaxing.

Take a virtual turn with me around the courtyard where some people were reading, some people were texting, some people were sleeping, some people were jammin’, some people were talking, and some lucky people were even painting!

"Oh, what move is she making now?"


Cute Couple!

ArtJamz was there with canvas, paints, and enthusiasm. Participants sign up ahead of time and get a chance to mingle and create while listening to the band. If you live in D.C., check out their website. Sounds like a great alternative to the more usual night-out options.

ArtJamz Supplies

I settled for a cup of coffee, my notebook, and pen.

We hung out listening to the funk jazz for about an hour before diving back into the sea of humidity outside.

G Street

We hopped on the train at the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metro stop. Hmmm, Chinatown. It will just have to wait for another day . . . Outside the Box in D.C.

Days 24 & 25: Not So Happy Feet

Beside The Pool

Dear Reader:

A most important word about travel and sightseeing. Moderation.

Since I was in pretty good shape before embarking on this D.C. adventure, I really didn’t give my physical condition much thought. In the spring, I’d overdone it a bit with some running and had a bout of heel spur pain, but a few weeks of rest and bicycling took care of it. I also started wearing those special kind of sneakers with the curved bottoms. Very cushiony. Very good for the heels.

Shelley's Eye-View from Her Chaise

Apparently, not so good for the ankles. After three weeks of almost daily walking, the outer edge of my right foot began to ache whenever I stepped down. Just a little ache, but I’m not going to risk greater injury. So for the next few days I will be sitting beside the pool, reading Candace Bushnell novels, and working on my tan (I use an SPF 45 lotion which allows me to turn a nice golden color without burning.)

The day before my self-imposed house-arrest, Hubby and I biked over to the Museum of the American Indian. The Teen and I had explored the “Our Universes” exhibit thoroughly, but Hubby had yet to visit. We arrived in time to take one of the guided tours, led by a really nice young woman from the Lakota tribe. After the tour, we took our time in the “Our Lives: Contemporary Life and Identities” exhibit and also spent some more time in the “Our Universes” exhibit where I was able to revisit some of my favorite stories and philosophies and ponder how our country might have been shaped if we had embraced some of these native peoples’ teachings and interwoven them with our own instead of conquering and trying to eradicate these important, vibrant cultures.

(Contact with Europeans and disease led to an upwards of 90% fatality rate among the native peoples. That was BEFORE guns and Christianity came along! Sad.)

"Sacred Circle" by Susan Point, 2003-2004

Taking the time to look more closely at some of the exhibits on the first floor, I was thrilled to find these spindle whorls used by North Pacific Coast women to spin mountain goat wool into thread or yarn. Susan Point’s spindle represents “women’s power, creativity, and contributions to society.”


Here are some more shoes for my D.C. Shoe Scavenger Hunt. Embroidered and beaded moccasins were often designed to show the status or family group of the individual. Okay, I’m a little shoe and foot obsessed right now, but do you see how gorgeous these are? I’d love to see a return to handmade shoes made by skilled craftspeople. Wouldn’t it be great to go down to the local cobbler–or to be precise, cordwainer or cordonnier–for a pair of shoes rather than to the shopping mall? We don’t even manufacture shoes here in America anymore. I hope there are craftspeople from various backgrounds and communities holding onto and passing down the knowledge and skills as we move toward an uncertain future.


In the Mohawk tradition, the leaders were men and wore headdresses like this one. Yes, the leaders were men, but guess who chose the leaders or got rid of them when they weren’t doing a good job of it? The women. Now that seems like a system that makes sense. Balance. Something our leaders should be looking at right now just over the river from where I’m sitting.

Diablada Mask, ca. 1975

The Bolivian “Diablada Mask” shown here represents the struggle between angels & demons, good & evil. As John McCain recently quipped, “It’s hard to do the Lord’s work in the Devil’s City.”

Oasis In The City

As for me, I’m going to try to stop worrying. After all, there is a chaise longue with my name on it downstairs beside the pool. Now, where did I leave my sunglasses . . .

Days 20 & 21: Shoe and Tell

Dorothy's Ruby Slippers

Dear Readers:

I think it would be fun to create a D.C. scavenger hunt based on shoes. I’ve heard about these scavenger hunts. Someone makes up a list of unusual places/sights/objects around the city and sends tourists off to find them. I would create a shoe-hunt. One of the places I’d put on the map would be the Museum of American History.

Most people who come to view the First Ladies exhibit focus mainly on the fabulous gowns. Granted, these are spectacular, and if you are at all interested in clothing design and fashion, you will be in heaven here. What you may not tend to notice, however, are the smaller articles displayed around the dresses. Mirrors and combs. Dinnerware. Silverware. Fans.


Abigail Adams's Slippers

These pretty embroidered leather slippers were worn by Abigail Adams in the late 1700’s. Over two-hundred years later . . .

Michelle Obama's Jimmy Choo's

. . . we have the Jimmy Choo’s that Michelle Obama wore with her Inaugural Ball gown.

Michelle Obama's Inaugural Ball gown

Both the Teen and I enjoyed looking at the gowns and shoes and designer sketches. We viewed a short video of Michelle Obama’s speech at the museum when she donated the gown to the exhibit, and I was impressed once again by the First Lady’s down-to-earth demeanor, her humor, and her intelligence. I also can’t help loving her for her passion for healthy eating, starting the Let’s Move program to fight childhood obesity, and, of course, planting the Victory Garden at the White House. Click HERE to watch a video of this year’s spring planting at the White House Garden.

George Washington In A Toga

This is the funniest thing I’ve seen in Washington so far. I can’t help laughing. Here is George Washington in his Colonial wig and a toga. A toga! Did you check out his feet? Sandals. I’m sure the sculptor had some grand vision for portraying our first president in this way–yes, democracy has its roots in Greece and all–but in my opinion, this is just wrong. Eh, can’t win ’em all.

The Teen shushed me. “Stop laughing, Mom.” So on we went.

Bon Appetit!

Here I am with another of my heroines, Julia Child. Why is she my heroine, you ask? Okay, I’m not really into gourmet cooking, but she inspires me because she never gave up trying different things until she discovered her true passion. Once she found that passion, she jumped into it with both feet. When she had ample reason to give up when trying to finish her cookbook, she persevered. And she continued to follow her passion the rest of her life.

The museum exhibits her famous kitchen . . . no shoes, unfortunately, but I’m sure Julia would think the cooking utensils were more important than shoes.

Julia's Kitchen

Giant History Poster Project

I loved this wall collage (is that the right word?) of all things Julia. “Wouldn’t it be fun to be the person who works here putting these exhibits together?” I said. I got a shrug in return. Okay. Guess I’m a dork.

Julia's books

Here are a couple editions of Julia’s book, MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH COOKING.

The Paper Engineering Exhibit

Speaking of books, we were delighted to discover this exhibit dedicated to the art of paper engineering. Students at our local elementary school have a wonderful librarian who teaches lessons every year on various bookish subjects, including paper engineering. I believe the Teen was more interested in this exhibit because of that early introduction. Connections between school learning and real-life learning. So important.

Soapbox moment: Library programs are important to the education of our children and foster self-directed and life-long learning skills. These programs should be retained and restored in our schools.

Leaving the pop-up books behind, we toured the American On The Move exhibit. We weren’t sure we were all that interested in transportation, but we ended up glad we decided to give it a try. We saw trains and carriages and cars and a police motorcycle and an early bicycle and a trolley car. I enjoyed the exhibit’s focus on how transportation changed commerce from mostly-local economies to our current, vast global economy.

Early Train

Trains started off rather small and plain.

Pretty Train

But they soon got much bigger, more efficient, and startlingly beautiful.

Loading boxes of produce

This scene shows how boxes of produce are loaded from the train to a horse-drawn cart and then unloaded at the local store.

Shipping Containers

Today, products are shipped all around the world in these huge metal containers. In 1960, 25 million tons of goods were shipped into West Coast ports in these containers. By 2000, 250 million tons. That’s alot of containers! There are so many laying around, in fact, that some people are building houses out of them. Click HERE!

Both the Teen and I agreed that this was an excellent exhibit. Don’t miss it if you get a chance to get to the museum.

The Original Muppets

We made our way upstairs and found the ruby slippers, Kermit the Frog, and a wonderful doll house donated to the museum by Faith Bradford, a retired librarian.

Faith Bradford's Dollhouse

The house has twenty three rooms, each filled with the appropriate furnishings.

The Wash room

Hungry and getting a little tired, the Teen and I reluctantly left the museum, chosing to find lunch up in Penn Quarter rather than eat at the cafe or the larger downstairs cafeteria in the museum. We strolled around the Quarter feeling a little out of place in our tourist garb amidst all the suits and ties out on their lunch break. Unfortunately, we ended up at a Starbucks again. I’m having a hard time finding local coffee shops. Time to deliberately research instead of hoping to run across them serendipitously.

On the way home, we zipped into the Hirshhorn so the Teen could have a look. “It looks fluffy but it is made out of pins,” was the Teen’s observation about this piece. I agree that the irony is pretty cool. What wasn’t cool was being told by a docent that I wasn’t supposed to be using flash. This was weird because I deliberately asked the docents on Monday if there were any restrictions on camera use. They told me there weren’t, and so I proceded to go around snapping beaucoup snaphots with flash all around the museum. Now I feel guilty . . . but glad I got the nice pictures.

This incident flattened my mood a bit, but when the Teen said, “We should do this every day, Mom,” my spirits lifted. I hope this experience is something that she’ll remember the rest of her life. I also hope it inspires some interests in art or history or fashion or travel or social issues or architecture . . . or all of the above!


No shoes on this guy!

Where are your travels taking you this summer? Drop us a line . . . Outside the Box.

Days 18 & 19 Part One: The Elephant In The Room


"Woman, 1965" by Willem de Kooning, paint on wood

Here’s the thing. I don’t know much about art, but I love looking at it.

I used to like creating it. As a kid, I remember the distinct oily smell of finger paints and the slippery feel of the special paper under my fingers as I smeared color in swirls and lines. Watercolors came in little tin boxes with plastic brushes, and after a bit of time the water in the cup turned a dark, sludgy grayish purple. It took forever for the paper to dry.

"Conception Synchrony", 1914 by Stanton McDonald-Wright

Later, I sketched things with pencil–I was fascinated by hands for awhile, and I seem to remember a horse phase somewhere around fourth grade. Unfortunately, our small school didn’t have an art program, and for some reason I just never sought out any books on art history or biographies of artists in my random borrowings from the Bangor Public Library. I don’t think I went to an art museum until I was in college, and even then I passed up chances to take art history in favor of other electives.

Now, at forty-something, I can’t seem to get enough of it.

"Composition In Light," Window from Coonley Playhouse, 1912. Frank Llyoyd Wright

Art is a window. We look through this window and see the world in new ways. We look into this window and see another person’s inner world. We learn something about perspective, understanding that we all view the world and its events through a psychological/emotional/historical lens which distorts, to some extent, reality.

"The Sorceress" by Jean Tinguely, 1961.

Every person’s lens is shaped a different way. I guess we’re all just bent.

Take this sculpture of a woman for example. She’s a twisted aggregate of rusted springs, iron, steel, and a motor. It makes me think–we are all of us made of the same elements, just molded and shaped in different ways, twisted by events big and small, worn out or still shiny new, motors chugging along just fine or backfiring now and then, maybe running a little rough and in need of a tune-up. The same, yet different. This is what art tells me. Appreciate the unique in all of us.

"Greenhouse" 1988 by Michael Lucero

Isn’t this the tower we all wanted to build when we were kids? It reminded me of playing with those Lincoln Logs toy sets. This piece also made me think of layers of civilization piled up, all the rusted out old technology finally topped by a more sustainable way of life.

Detail from Luceo's "Greenhouse" sculpture

Of course I loved this piece: rooster, farm equipment. Is it strange that I feel so alive here in a city environment while at the same time pulled toward “the farm” and an agricultural life?

David Smith "Big Rooster," 1945.

Perhaps my life-lenses are bifocals!

Willem de Kooning "Woman Sag Harbor," 1964. "Woman," 1964. "Woman," 1965.

Willem de Kooning’s bubblegum pink, clown orange, and candy-apple red portraits made me smile because we can’t take ourselves so seriously all the time. That’s something else modern art teaches me.

Joan Miro "Woman & Little Girl in Front of the Sun," 1946.

As fabulous as all these sculpture and paintings are at the Hirshhorn, some of the most powerful and astonishing pieces are the video projections–films and/or photographs projected onto huge screens. I’ve never seen anything like these.

The first took me by surprise as I entered a side gallery on the third floor. Here was Grazia Toderi’s “Orbile Rose,” 2009 and “Rosso Babele,” 2006. Walking into the room, your eyes widen to see a giant, bifold screen covered in a reddish projected image that looks like a cross between the planet Jupiter and a photo of a city electrical grid taken from an airplane at night. Flashes of light move your eye here and there. Lines of lights snake around a conical shape–right side up on one screen and upside down on the other. It reminded me of nothing so much as that old computer game Asteroids mixed with a background shot from a science fiction movie. Click HERE to see it on the Hirshhorn website. It’s redder in real life than it looks on the computer.

Sculpture Outside the Hirshhorn Museum

So are you wondering yet about the elephant in the room? Typically, they are the things we avoid talking about if we can help it, we pretend they aren’t there. Here I am referring to another projected piece, this one from the second floor in the Fragments In Time and Space exhibit. (Please, please click the link so you can see an image.)

I’ll attempt to describe what is best observed. Walking around the circular space into one gallery after another, you enter a dim room with white-painted walls and a whitish-gray floor. In the middle of the room, giant screens slightly overlap each other facing outward. There is a small screen with a close-up shot almost hiding in one corner. Projected on the screens, an image of a room with white-painted walls and a whitish-gray floor . . . and a big, gray elephant. The elephant walks around, swings its truck, lays down on the floor. The piece is called, “Play Dead; Real Time,” 2003 by Douglas Gordon.

There is, in a surreal way, an elephant in the room.

Turning The Corner

I thought, maybe sometimes you have to look at something that makes you uncomfortable, acknowledge it, talk about it, and then move on.

So I did. But later, this exhibit got me thinking about how important art education is for students. Art and music and languages should not be seen as “dispensable” subjects when discussing school budgets. More and more I’m thinking that budgets, if they need to be cut, should be cut across board. Our kids need access to the visual and performing arts in conjunction with language arts and math and science if they are going to be able to really get down to business and think . . . Outside The Box.

"ART surrounds us" poster