Flying South

December 20, 2012

"Put a Bird on It" seems to be our theme this year for holiday gifting.  A wise and pretty little bird named Camille remembered that I had fallen in love with a new bird book, Birds of a Feather . It really is fabulous for all ages and it was one of my favorite Hanukkah gifts. It also turned out to be the source for much study and inspiration this week. 

This week didn't go the way I thought it would. We were swamped with a variety of unexpected health issues and the kids ended up spending most of the week at home. My long to-do list of errands quickly got tossed and our week morphed into a surprisingly pleasant blur of reading, crafting, and birding (watching the birds at our feeder and then making some of our own). Our unplanned week at home turned out to be just what we all needed. 

And now we are flying south to join our flock...headed home to Louisiana to be with family and friends for the holidays. I hope you and your own flock find some time for quiet endeavors in the midst of the frenzy that can happen at this time of year.

Pret a Papier

December 18, 2012

If you live in the DC area or you will be visiting during the holidays, you MUST get to Hillwood to see the Pret-a-Papier exhibit before it closes on December, 30th. Isabelle de Borchgrave is a Belgian artist who creates the most stunning dresses out of paper. Yes, paper.  Simple sheets of paper turned into spectacular pieces of couture. 

The first time I heard of de Borchgrave's work was when my mother-in-law and my nieces kept talking about her Pulp Fashion exhibit they had seen in San Francisco .They couldn't stop gushing about the dresses. And now I know why.  All of those amazing details so carefully crafted from paper: endless tucks, multi-layered ruffles, intricate patterns,delicate laces, puffy bows...paper frilliness like you could never imagine possible.

But it's not just the decorative accents on the garments. It's also the historical details. And there are plenty of them to absorb. The most striking connection to history is that several of the dresses are on exhibit in the mansion and they were created specifically for this exhibit. Isabelle de Borchgrave spent time at Hillwood learning about Marjorie Merriweather Post and her enormous collections of Faberge eggs, French antiques, and lovely gardens. The Belgian artist's attention to those details and their shared connections are delightfully obvious in these pieces. My favorite dresses were those that were set inside the lovely ghosts floating and inhabiting the spaces with their papery, ethereal presence.

And when you go, be sure you pick up an audio guide (it's included with the entrance fee) and it really enhances the whole experience. You get to hear de Borchgrave speaking about her personal fascination with various cultures and periods. Similar to the thrill of hearing authors speak about their work and read their own work, I also love to hear artists speak about their creations, their inspirations, their process, and their challenges. I love how these snippets from the interviews with de Borchgrave are tucked in with the audio guide descriptions of the dresses. This slideshow is also a wonderful way to learn more about her work.


The Eighth Night

December 16, 2012

No Words

December 15, 2012

The Smithsonian Castle

Just prayers for peace and healing in Newtown, Connecticut.

Thoughts on This December

December 13, 2012

 For the past few Decembers, we have spent the holiday-laden month wrestling with the issues that arise from having the only Jewish kids in a fairly large geographical area (ie Sicily and probably most of Southern Italy). This December we suddenly find ourselves experiencing the month in a very different way: surrounded by other Jews. Our move this past summer was such a dramatic one that our kids now attend a public school system that takes days off for the major Jewish holidays and we belong to a large and vibrant Jewish congregation. 

We are no longer the token Jewish family and it feels nice to be a part of something much larger than our family unit. In fact, when Camille recently and spontaneously announced "I love being Jewish". It made me smile because it was such a contrast to poor Noah at the same age when he struggled with being the only Jewish kid in his school and begged us to celebrate Christmas. I am pretty confident that Camille's announcement stems from the fact that she loves going to Sunday school and Friday night Shabbat services, she loves playing dreidles with friends, eating challah, and spending time with Rabbi Jessica...all things that have come from our recent move. Don't get me wrong, we miss Sicily terribly, but this Hanukkah has me feeling especially grateful to be in our new spot.

Williamsburg, Virginia

November 29, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

November 28, 2012

Williamsburg, Virginia

Our first big family Thanksgiving gathering in four years. Adam's family made the trip from the West Coast to be with us. Lots of laughter, lots of fabulous cousin time (have I ever mentioned that we have the most amazing nieces? we really do and we all love them to kids are now going through serious cousin withdrawl), lots of silliness (a new family dance in tribute to the Wright brothers), lots of games (bowl of nouns and hedbanz were both big hits), lots to give thanks for and lots of sadness when it was time to say good-bye.

Veteran's Day 2012

November 12, 2012

Arlington National Cemetery: Uniform lines of white headstones, falling leaves, departed souls, the rhythmic step at the tombs of the unknown, and the stories lingering, clinging, and piling these and these and those that are close to my heart. 

Thank you to my grandfather (WWII), my father (Korea), my uncles (Vietnam), my cousins, my husband, our friends, and all of the other brave men and women who have or who are currently serving our country. 


November 8, 2012

Camille and Nana Bunny

She vacillates between wanting to be a kindergarten teacher, an artist, and a school librarian. She methodically reads her way through entire book series (currently gobbling up the Mr. Putter series) before moving on to another series. She has turned her bedroom into a veterinarian's clinic and her stuffed animals are in various states of rehabilitation. She is letting her hair grow. She loves sushi and bubble gum and as of yesterday, she is now seven. And she still loves her bunnies. I think she always will. Happy Birthday to our sweet "Mei-Mei"!

Million Puppet March

November 5, 2012

We were there. How about you?  More pics here.

Million Puppet March
November 3, 2012, 
Washington, D.C.

Halloween Morning

October 31, 2012

Crowded in the bathroom early this morning we all got a first glimpse at Noah's completed costume.Thanks to Hurricane Sandy we had plenty of time to clean up our basement and work on Halloween costumes. Now off to finish prepping spooky specimen jars for Noah's Mad Scientist class party. What's on your plate for today? 

Happy Halloween!

Flying Pumpkins

October 29, 2012

There have been some seasonal warnings on the radio in preparation for this storm: "Please remove all exterior Halloween decorations. Pumpkins can become flying projectiles". That's quite a vivid image isn't it? Nature's own version of Punkin Chunkin.
I am glad we made the trip to a local pumpkin patch last week and didn't wait until this week. I think that poor patch is going to be turned into a big soggy batch of pumpkin soup. We have followed the advice of the public service announcements and brought our pumpkins inside.

Storm Prep

October 28, 2012

We have been in storm prep mode around here. Waiting for Frankenstorm (aka Hurricane Sandy) to make her arrival and hoping her impact won't be too severe or long lasting. We have a good stockpile of batteries, water, firewood, and leaves. Yes, leaves. While most of our neighbors have been frantically raking and piling up leaves, we have been picking out our favorites and bringing them inside. In the past few weeks, Camille and I have become leaf junkies. We can't get over all of the vibrant fall foliage. I can't stop taking pictures of the leaves and Camille can't seem to stop collecting them. We are keeping our fingers crossed and hoping Sandy won't do too much damage on her way through the area.

City Schooling

October 26, 2012

National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

I am a geek. There's no denying it. I love school. I love learning. I love being around others who like to learn and teach.

The idea of homeschooling has always been a tempting one, not just for my kids' sakes, but for my own selfish desires. Perhaps I should be embarrassed to admit that, but I am not. I have seriously considered taking my children out of school just so we could do field trips every day (sleeping later would be nice, too). And now that we are living on the edge of a city filled with museums and historical sites, it is an even more enticing prospect. We haven't made that plunge yet, but it hovers in my mind, especially on crisp autumn days.

The percolating idea of homeschooling pushed me to the realization that what I really want is an adult version of homeschooling. Actually what I really want is "city schooling". I want to attend lectures, gallery talks, author talks, etc. I want to take advantage of this city and all of the cultural offerings. I want to fill my brain with more than just grocery lists and library fines.  So I have started to do exactly that. I have started city schooling. 

Last week I heard Lois Lowery speak about her new book (both she and the book are amazing) and saw Jon Scieszka in action with a group of middle school students (what a funny, energetic guy). This week I wandered through the National Gallery's sculpture garden, attended a gallery talk about the current Serial Portrait exhibit, and quickly ran through the Renwick's fabulous 40 under 40 show. My field trip list is long and growing. My mind is eager and ready. So far City Schooling is a very good thing.


October 24, 2012

Pierce Mill, Rock Creek Park, Washington, DC

A few weeks ago, we went to the zoo.  One of our last stops was at the invertebrate house where we were delighted to discover an enormous octopus. We were all entranced and quickly joined the crowd of admirers. 

Camille elbowed her way up to the glass and with her index finger she traced the path of one of the large and sinuous tentacles. She did this in a slow, trance-like movement before announcing in a loud voice: "This is my favorite part to eat". It was such a startling comment and in such sharp contrast to the hypnotic movement of her finger, that the woman standing next to me gasped, giggled nervously, and stepped back. 

It's true. Camille does love to eat octopus tentacles (thanks in large part to spending her early years of life in Japan and Italy). It just felt a little jarring to hear her proclaim it in such a public way while standing in front of what was clearly meant to be an educational display and not a tank at a seafood restaurant. 

I love my kids.

73 Cents

October 22, 2012

73 cents. That's the title of a colorful mural on a brick wall between a gas station and a CVS drugstore. That's also the amount of money the artist was required to pay for each page of her dying husband's medical records. Seventy-three cents per page and it would take over twenty days to get his records. It's a very sad and frustrating story. And also an inspiring one. Regina Holliday started painting this mural just days after her young husband died in 2009. She didn't stop there. She has also gone on to use her voice and her paintbrush to advocate for patients rights. Regina Holliday is a paintbrush warrior.

I didn't know any of this when I stumbled upon the mural earlier last week. It was dark and I couldn't read any of the quotes (Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Shakespeare, J.K. Rowling, and even Buffy the Vampire Slayer), but I could tell there was a lot of power and emotion up there on that brick wall. I returned two days later to photograph it. 

73 Cents
5001 Connecticut Avenue
Washington, DC

DC Life: Kids Euro Fest

October 21, 2012

Kids Euro Fest: Over two hundred free performances through out the city for the next few weeks. Yesterday we went to the Embassy of the Czech Republic to see a family of stilt walkers/actors (luckily the kids didn't really catch on to some of the adult themes). Today we headed to the Embassy of Slovakia to see a fabulous mime act. Noah even got in on the action when he was brought up to engage in a few crazy rounds of ping pong. Lots of fun for all.

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