Thursday, July 2, 2015

Girl's Weekend by the Lake

Those who know me know there was a time I was addicted to Twitter. I met a huge network of people also addicted to Diana Gabaldon's books and I was suddenly thrown into a world of women (and some men) who loved to read, write, eat, and talk. 

Two women in particular came into my life and I finally got to meet them a few weeks ago at Klaudia's lake house in Michigan. People might think it's crazy to meet people for the first time by spending a weekend with them, but you really can't go wrong with good hearted people from Michigan. 

The three of us spent the weekend eating, talking, and, well... eating.

Klaudia made a s'mores buffet for us.

There was a bonfire in their backyard where people from the neighborhood gathered to talk, drink, and eat delicious coconut, caramel, chocolate, and strawberry marshmallows.

Klaudia showed me how to gather sea glass, which is a lot more tricky than I realized.

Klaudia set up the weekend perfectly. She greeted Jen and I with bed and breakfast quality sleeping arrangements and gift bags. Gift bags! Who does that? It was all above and beyond wonderful. She brought treats from her uncle's bakery that included freshly baked cronuts, muffins, brownies, and donuts. Her family is from Yugoslavia, so she cooked and bought us traditional Yugoslavian food, a beautiful blend of Mediterranean healthy and buttery cheese wrapped in phyllo dough.

The weather was horrible, so any plans on jet skiing or paddle boarding went out the window. But I honestly didn't mind. Simply being with these women and Klaudia's very generous three daughters and husband made the weekend exactly what it needed to be.

Thank you Klaudia, Jen, and Diana Gabaldon for a wonderful weekend.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Marie Antoinette Garden Party Baby Shower

My friend, Sarah, loves Marie Antoinette. In fact, she loves her so much, last year she celebrated her birthday in Versailles. Having a Marie Antoinette inspired baby shower just seemed like the right thing to do (her gender reveal party was Peter Rabbit). We wanted to recreate one of Marie Antoinette's famous garden parties, so we chose pink, green, and gold as our colors and everything French as our food.

Cydney is the queen of decor. She did this cake and the birdcage centerpiece. Amazing!

Sarah adores chocolate covered strawberries. They were quite easy to make and absolutely delicious.

It was a magical night of guests wearing floral halos dining, chatting, and sharing baby stories. Pregnancy is hard, so we wanted to bring some elegance, splendor, and je ne sais quois to a dear friend's life as a first time mother.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Well, I'm Charmed

It was my first Saturday off since who knows when. Cyd, the beautiful gal who knows all the ins and outs of charming Virginia, thought Middleburg was something my little heart needed to see. With rows of farm houses, white fences around green grass, and elegant antique shops ahead of us, we headed out to explore this adorable town and all its quaint glory.

We first went to Cyd's favorite antique store where each room had its own theme. My favorite was the French room. The antique stores in Middleburg are serious business, live doves and gilded crowns included. We then had a snack of bacon maple donuts and banana cake at Home Farm before going back out for more shopping and looking at beautiful churches. Lunch was at the Red Fox Inn, a hotel that reminds me of an old English inn Jane Austen might visit. The food was lovely with a date stuffed salad, macaroni and cheese, and the best sweet potato fries I've had.

Middleburg is a kind of place where they grow cabbage in the windowsills and the ivy wrapped around buildings never fade. You feel like you've stepped into a magical world of the place that invented charming. It was a Saturday, yet the town didn't feel crowded or busy. It was just sweet, calm, and picture perfect.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Banning Favorites

In the studio

"What did you do today?" I asked a five year old student as we walked into the studio building.

"School," she said.

"What did you learn at school?"


"What's your favorite shape?"

She paused for a while, almost confused by the question. "Triangles," she said finally.

"Why triangles?"

"Because it looks like pizza!"

Asking my students what their favorite things are has always been my go to question when I'm trying to get to know them better, but when I saw her confusion of the question it made me wonder what had caught her off guard. 

I realized asking a young person to choose favorites was limiting to their personality. Why do we have to have favorites? What's so important about having favorites? Can we like more than one thing? Can we like them all?

They're innocent although loaded questions: "What's your favorite dessert? Who's your favorite Disney princess? What's your favorite day of the week?" It unknowingly places an arbitrary value on things, a value that doesn't matter. You're also assuming they have to have favorites, and that not having a favorite is out of the ordinary. 

It's a hard habit to break, but I now ask students, "What do you like most about this? What's something you like about that?"

I found asking questions this way opens them up to a better understanding of the purpose of my question and perhaps a more thoughtful response. Instead of worrying about something's order of importance, they can concentrate on why they feel the way they do.

Is this nitpicking? Maybe. But I'm very nitpicky about making sure my students are fostering their creativity in the most productive ways possible. It makes them feel less pressured about why favorites are important and maybe (maybe) they'll worry less about being someone else's favorite, too.

How do you feel about favorites?
Do you dislike being asked that question?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The United States Capitol

Taking the trolly from the Senate building to the Capitol.
Fun fact: Cydney's mom chose the color of the trolly.

I know it's shocking, but Tuesday was my first time inside The Capitol Building. How long have I lived here? How many times have I visited? Sad, I know. But I'm glad I waited because Cydney is on staff at The Senate and she graciously took Leah and I on a special tour of this beautiful building.

The details of The Capitol are so thoughtful and symbolic, I highly recommend you have a tour guide. For example, you'll find out the statue of Abraham Lincoln in the rotunda was carved by a fourteen year old girl who finished it the very night he was assassinated. That little fact made me stop and admire the beautiful sculpture in complete awe. Despite the hundreds of tourists walking around, all these little tidbits made the experience more connected and intimate.

If you're not in to big group tours, schedule a private tour with someone from the Senate office who'll give you a more personal touch. They can take you on the balcony that overlooks the city or a ticket to see The House or Senate in action.

Afterward, have a pretzel outside the Federal Courthouse and feel like a true DC tourist.

Beware that the rotunda is under construction until 2016, so you won't get that iconic photo with the dome until then.