Click here for the full story of the Traveling Gnome Calendar.
Traveling back in time again…this time to December 2012…we flew from Kansas City to Washington DC via an airplane with a fox on the wing, which we all really dug.
But I will not lie, our time in DC was not as well spent as it could have been. Things were busy and pressured and then of course, the awful news out of Connecticut…
But there is so much to ingest in DC, historically & culturally, I thought I’d take you even further back in time to our 2011 visit…where Michael officially began to Dream the Dream.
(Mind you, what you see below is FAR from a comprehensive list)
They are all free (with the exception of a few like the Spy Museum and the Newseum). This makes it easy to walk in, spend an hour, walk out, go back the next day.
The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History-Dinosaurs and diamonds make a perfect combination.
National Museum of American History-Our Nation’s preserved history runs the gamut from the Civil War to Dorothy’s slippers.
The National Gallery of Art-Just beautiful. We went in 2011 when G was just 18 months. We wandered back again one somber afternoon in 2012 to find it filled with flowers for the holidays.
MONUMENTS & MEMORIALS:
Let’s see—we have the Lincoln Memorial…
…The Jefferson Memorial…
…The World War II Memorial…
…the Washington Monument.
…and Watergate, as seen here in the background. We like to call these 2 shots—The Bourne Identity-Escape From Watergate—where G plays a young Matt Damon.
And then, of course, we have the White House. You can view it from the front…you can view it from the back…and if you look closely you can find this little button on a gate that does not work any longer, but says Welcome.
For the full 2011 DC posts, click the links below.
Next stop was NYC.
All the way back to November 2012…eeeeeek. Ages ago.
“I do dis,” he said.
“No sweetie, when you’re older,” I replied.
“I do dis.”
“Sweetie, let’s wait for Papa before we go ice skating ok?”
“No, I do dis.”
“Love, I don’t think you really understand how slippery it is and how thin the blades are on the shoes you have to wear.”
“I do dis. I go. I go. I do dis.”
“Yes. I go.”
He was so determined, I had to peek into the skate rental stand just to see if they even had skates his size.
So…we did dis.
Then we went to Kansas City and fell in love with a few things below:
The hotel we stayed in was built in the 1930s, so it was grand and plush with that old world feel Michael and I go crazy for.
The guys had a blast. They had rides and a room full of nothing but those Duplo blocks that are sturdier for littler kids. They were gone all day.
A Brasserie!!! And not just a Brasserie, but a Brasserie that rivals some in Paris. While the guys headed to Lego Land, I headed to Aixois and my waitress told me one of their secrets…they have some of the best beef on the planet. SOOOO…lunch was maybe the best steak sandwich I’ve ever had, roasted tomato soup and a glass of Cotes du Rhone.
Perfect for some much needed ‘me’ time.
(FULL DISCLOSURE: Before I had G and became a full time Mom, I used to silently judge Mothers who didn’t work and constantly spoke to me dreamily about ME time. ’ME time? BAH!’ I would chortle to myself, ‘I don’t have any ME time!’ Oh, yes I did. I did. I had so much, so much me time and I didn’t even know it. Please feel free to silently tell me, ‘I told you so.’)
Monet—van Gogh—etc. etc. What’s not to like?
Next stop was DC.
Where to eat in Chicago?
I’m sorry to say, you have to live there to hit every great spot that was recommended to us. However, I feel it is my moral, culinary duty to share this list of restaurants with you—just in case you plan to hit the Windy City any time soon. Even though we only made it to a fraction of this list ourselves, it should not go to waste as it is compiled from 3 people who are highly trained, professional eaters (and drinkers) and 1 local Chicagoan.
Let’s start with Emily. Emily lives in New York City. She is a television producer and has, at many points in her life, produced television shows about food. So naturally, you want to take her advice.
Her list, her words:
Oysters and fantastic draft beer (and more) at The Publican. She’s right. I made it here. I ate pork rinds, oysters, sardines on toast, cauliflower topped with prosciutto crumbs, homemade beer and milk panna cotta. COME ON!!
Classic, superbly made Macaroons and fresh baked croissants at Vanille Patisserie.
Cookies of ALL concoctions (like brownie chunks and potato chips in a cookie) in a fun retro setting with 70′s music at The Cookie Bar. Tried to go..NOTE-Closed on Sunday and Monday. Looks really fun inside.
If you can handle gelato in the cold, go to Black Dog Gelato for some really divine flavors.
The Purple Pig-It’s on Magnificent Mile and is great — small plates, huge wine list, always hopping. Tried to go early on a Sunday…packed! Menu looked great.
Urban Belly-Asian noodles and dumplings. Wonderful stuff, yummy ramen, very casual (shared long tables) super cool.
Xoco-Authentic Mexican cafe (Rick Bayless, famous chef)
with great sandwiches made to order and yummy hot chocolates with sweet churros that are made all day long and the most delicious ever. Open early and late. Went for breakfast. We had breakfast empanadas, huevos rancheros, spicy hot chocolate (no coffee) and churros. Fantastic! Just because I don’t usually eat doughnuts doesn’t mean I won’t.
Mindy’s Hot Chocolate-The name is a bit misleading because it’s really all about the rest of the food. Nice family place. The chef is a former pastry chef turned restauranteur and she gets nominated for awards every year.
Avec-This is the same owner as Publican but more upscale. Lovely, spare space. Really good dining.
The Girl and the Goat-I actually haven’t been but it is supposed to be really good and always gets written up, and I love the name. The former pastry chef opened Black Dog Gelato.
Crisp-Korean fried chicken. Foodies love this cheap eats place, say it’s the best fried chicken.
If you are downtown, and looking for a really old world experience, kind of fun— the famous Berghoff. We went to the cafe for lunch. Old world is the best way to describe it. We had Berghoff root beer and eggplant parm in the most cozy, Christmasy, German dining room around.
Do you like hot dogs? Go to Hot Doug’s.
Next we have Sara. Sara also lives in New York and works at a farm in the Hudson Valley. She pioneers programs for sustainable farming and cider production. She also eats in delicious restaurants all over the country in the name of the food industry. Naturally I listen to her advice as well.
She says: ‘They are all a bit fancy, but I did eat at Publican and it was really fun.’
Publican (see above)
Hot Doug’s (also see above)
Perennial Virant (by Lincoln Park. ALMOST made it for brunch—it looked so cozy inside.)
Frontera Grill (a classic)-(This spot is also run and owned by chef Rick Bayless who runs Xoco—see above)
Then there is my Father. While Dad is not a food professional, he has sort of an honorary degree from the University of Eating and Enjoying Food & Wine. His advice on food is analogous to Inès de La Fressange‘s advice on fashion: Classic.
Shaw’s Crab House-We made it here on our last night in Chicago and it’s safe to say it is my favorite spot in town. Dark wood, crimson leather, black leather tufted booths—classic Chicago. We made it for oyster happy hour, salads and one glass each of Caymus Conundrum.
Rosebud-Italian food. Of course.
Billy Goat Tavern-While Dad didn’t tell me to go here, he said I could if I wanted to. How could I not want to? The famous SNL sketch of Cheezeborger, Cheezeborger, Coke? And the place still exists? While perhaps maybe it shouldn’t—this photo was entirely worth the visit.
Lastly we have Kit, a reader who I do not know, so I’m not going to make any assumptions about her eating and drinking life—BUT she is a Chicago local, sent me a comprehensive restaurant list and keeps a blog about food. So—draw your own conclusions. To learn more about Kit, you can visit her at thekittchen.com.
Her list, her words :
For the best brunch ever go to Southport Grocery. It is just north of the Southport Brown Line stop. The neighborhood is really great and filled with fun boutiques to shop around.
If you like Mexican food check out Rick Bayless’s Xoco (see above). Or Big Star in Wicker Park. Big Star was just named one of the best taco joints in the US and it is cheap.
And then—to wrap it all up—we actually stumbled on a few places all by our little old, barely trained, unprofessional selves—
Bin 36-cheese, small plates, wine by glass, bottle or flight. It was hard to eat there and not miss Divine Bar in New York.
The Drake Hotel at the Palm Court-La di da. One of the fabulous women in Les Mis had her last show in Chicago. So another fabulous woman arranged a surprise ladies tea at the Palm Court. What an old school treat. The Drake is an older, posh hotel at the top of the Magnificent Mile and it was made all the better for being decked out for Christmas.
The Aviary—They make cocktails here that are essentially science experiments. Plan ahead. It’s by reservation only.
When this post publishes, we’ll be in Washington DC. Any favorite spots there you think we should hit?
This was a kind of a dreary week that turned on a dime thanks to Wolverine. Michael came home late Sunday night to spend Monday and Tuesday with us before heading back to DC.
We stopped at (hopefully) our new apartment to see if there was a lease for us to sign or something to make this whole thing official. They said they hoped they’d be done by the first of November. Great. We have Jacques’ until November 15th. Should we try to extend that? ‘No,’ they said, ‘it will be done by the 15th.’
Great.I’m too nervous to get excited yet.
Michael also wanted to be there for the baby’s 18 month check up, which was most unpleasant. 3 shots and a blood test for lead levels. Ah yes. Remember those? It seems so long ago doesn’t it? That’s because it was. It is not lost on me that this is the baby’s 18 month check up. He was diagnosed with lead poisoning at 12 months. That means we left our apartment 6 months ago and never looked back.
Needless to say, he did not handle this check up well…because, why would he? Plus we got two pieces of annoying news. 1-His lead levels were at seven three months ago. Now they are six. Six? Unacceptable. However…everyone says it’s fine, it’s just exposure (>10 is poisoning), have him tested again in 3 months. And I’m sure it is fine, but I would like his levels to be below 3…today.
So again, we wait.
The second thing is that the baby was speaking. Now he’s not. The Pediatrician wants Early Intervention to come and evaluate him. She said to forget about the lead (how?), it’s not that, he might be having trouble creating full words with the muscles of his mouth. Early Intervention will check just to be sure and of course it could also just be nothing.
I won’t sleep for a month of course.
But right after we received this news, a friend sent me a text that said, ‘Get a sitter we’re going to see Hugh Jackman – Back on Broadway!’ Just thinking about it now makes me go
This friend is of very sound judgement, I do anything she tells me to do.
Seven years ago Hugh Jackman did this show, The Boy from Oz that people said was so amazing they saw it multiple times. In fact, he was so good that when he was out for a week, they just cancelled the show all together rather than giving him an understudy. We’re talking about Wolverine. I only know Hugh Jackman from the X-Men movies and he was great, but I just never made it to see him play Peter Allen.
But then I saw him host the Tony Awards and I thought, ‘Wow. He is amazing.’ I had no idea how talented he was. And to my husband’s eye, he was apparently moving his feet to one rhythm, his arms to another and his voice was following another. Which doesn’t make any sense but clearly sounds very hard to do. Plus I’ve heard he loves loves loves all the talented musicians and dancers on Broadway and feels honored to perform with them…not the other way around, plus he’s really charming, so sign me up already.
Well, dear Reader, my report is as follows…I am not a, ‘jump up and down and dance all around’ kind of lady when I’m at the theatre, but I will tell you that Hugh Jackman is so charming, and so talented, the whole audience did absolutely everything he told them to do. If he had told us all to go out into the street and strip down to our skivvies, I think we all would have done it.
Not to mention that my dear friend surprised me with second row seats on the aisle!
The two seats in front of us were empty so when Mr. Jackman came down off the stage to sing in the audience (!!!!!) he got on his knees in front of my friend, held her hand, looked her right in the eyes and sang his heart out. I just held onto her arm and squealed like a 15 year old girl.
Anyway…he must have bad breath or something…anything. There has to something wrong with him. There was a woman in the front row, who let’s just say was maybe a little too enthusiastic. He didn’t care. He hugged and kissed her and tapped her head with maracas. She must’ve worked hard to get those front row, center tickets. He was going to be sure she wasn’t disappointed.
He kept yelling offstage to get the baseball scores for the men in the audience. He said he knew they were only there because their wives made them come. He pulled a woman in her 60s from the audience and brought her up on stage to sing with him. After the show we all told her how amazing she was and she replied all in one breath,
‘I don’t know what happened! What did I do? My kids will never believe me. What do I do? Never wash my hands again? Freeze dry this outfit?’
I think she was in shock.
And can I also just say (and then I’ll stop with the Hugh Jackman, I promise), he pointed out his two dancers who were having their Broadway debut in his show. He applauded his conductor, his drummer, his pianist, his guitar player…well you get the picture. He told us how lucky we were to get to hear them play. And he was right.
AND GET THIS!!! They are filming a movie version of Les Miserables and Hugh Jackman is playing the lead, Jean Valjean.
Shut the front door.
After the show we were going to sneak backstage to say ‘hello’ to three of the musicians who are colleagues of my husband’s (I was feeling a little shy about this, but my husband insisted I do it). When we got out of the theatre though it was madness. Madness. You couldn’t get anywhere near the stage door. There were policemen and caution tape like the President was in town.
If you’re not sick of Hugh yet, you can click right here to see a little rehearsal video…
To round out the week, a girlfriend took me to some Soho Art Galleries. This is her area of expertise as her mother is an art appraiser. She offered to teach me a little, to help me develop my own educated taste. How lovely. Of the several galleries we went to that day, these are the paintings that stuck with me.
Of course these beautiful oil paintings of Paris views by Claude LAZAR
And these beautiful still lifes…Paintings by Ilya Zomb.
You would think all of this culture and entertainment would have pushed all my worries about the baby right out the window. Well of course we all know it didn’t. Oh Mr. Jackman came close didn’t he? But my dear and heroically honest friend Leigh posted some insight this week on her blog, in case i’m gone, that comes at a good time.
Worry doesn’t take away tomorrow’s troubles; it just takes away today’s peace.
I need to needlepoint that on a throw pillow.
On Michael’s day off we had a picnic in the park and then went to the Smithsonian National Zoo.
Of course our favorite was the Panda…how could it not be?
We opted not to go to the International Spy Museum since it seemed like a whole ‘to-do’ and instead wandered for quite a long time in the National Portrait Gallery. I love it in there…one of my favorites was seeing this portrait of Edith Wharton (author of The House of Mirth, The Age of Innocence, among many others) as a little girl. I’ve only recently learned about the Gilded Age of New York, so it’s fresh in my mind.
We ended the day with another stair climbing mission to the top of the Jefferson Memorial.
That place is big!
The next morning we took a somber stroll through the Arlington National Cemetery. The weather was beautiful.
After we dropped Michael at the Kennedy Center, the baby and I headed for the National Archives to see the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. They are both held in this big rotunda made of marble. It did not take the baby long to figure out that the acoustics in there were fantastic. This is how he tricked me into possibly the quickest viewing of these documents in history.
We moved on to the exhibit about America and food. I did the speed through viewing while I chased the baby through the hallways. I LOVED this donut poster!
So the National Gallery of Art was where it really happened. Uncle Jack, I may be addicted. I have never appreciated a museum more and thought perhaps I should start to get a little bit more of an education in art for goodness sake. This museum is big and wide and the art is hung high on the walls so the little man could run free without putting his elbow through a Picasso. The place is SO big we really only made it through part of the first floor.
One of our friend’s favorite story about the National Gallery goes like this…when she and her brother were little, her parents took them there and suddenly her brother started howling. Their Mother said, ‘I don’t understand. He’s usually so well behaved.’ That’s when their Father pointed out, ‘Yes, but we’ve been here for 6 hours!’
We didn’t even get to the permanent collections, we spent most of our time looking at the Chester Dale collection. Chester Dale worked on Wall Street. His wife was an artist. So, naturally, she influenced his appreciation of art. Then when he died, he bequeathed it all to us.
At one point I picked up the baby and carried him around the room with me and asked if he liked certain paintings…
‘Really? Ok. How about the Girl with a Hoop? No?’
‘Well how about The Beach at Villerville? No.’
Snow in New York? But you love snow. No. OK.’
‘Picasso? But it’s from his blue period! No. Not even the blue period.’
‘Ok…well how about this one?’
We went to the East Wing of the Gallery just to see the Andy Warhol exhibit, Headlines. He didn’t really like it. In fact, the paintings were hung low to the ground in this exhibit. When I set him down for a moment, much to my horror, he went running full steam ahead to crash his little hands into the first painting he saw.
Lastly, one of my favorite sneak peeks of the trip was getting to go backstage at the Kennedy Center. They have posters up there of everything that has ever been done there including some Obama/Biden event. If you look closely you can see their names above those wings.
One day Michael was back there working and one of the stage hands and two other men were playing basketball with the basketball net they have backstage. The next day he told the young man he was a good shot. He replied, ‘Thanks. Did you see who I was with? That was one of the guys from Team 6 and his Dad. I was showing them my basketball moves.’
Team 6 ??? Those are the Navy Seals who got Bin Laden. !!! Yikes!
Well, after all of this ‘America!’ we got on the Amtrak back to Harlem. Saying goodbye was hard, but you know, as soon as you do it, you just fall right back into the rhythm of your own life. It’s hard, but I think it’s healthy. And now I can’t wait for the next visit, which is honestly in 4 days. Michael is coming home Sunday night. We’re ridiculous…I know.
So just like that, on Tuesday, 10/11, Michael headed to DC to start his new job. Now, dear Reader, while I LOVE my independence, while I am never, ever bored and hardly ever lonely, this is going to be harder than I thought. And not just because there is no, ‘can you put the baby in the bath while I make dinner?’ happening now, but there is no, ‘end of the day time’ happening now. This is the time when the baby is asleep and Michael and I sit on the couch and talk grown up talk even if it’s only for 15 minutes because we are so stinking exhausted. This, I will miss.
But again…we will press on…
Because in exchange for those 15 minutes, there is much fun to be had in the coming year, many adventures. And the most awesome trade off is that Michael is the Resident Director of Les Mis! Hoooray! It finally sunk in when we pulled up to the big old Kennedy Center and saw the giant Les Mis banner that said ‘Dream the Dream.’ I almost peed my pants.
So before Michael had been away 3 full days, the baby and I packed up and hopped on a train to DC. We had a blast, an absolute blast. First of all the weather was tremendous. Secondly, he is the most delightful, little adventurer around. Lastly while Michael worked, we did just about everything you can possibly do in DC shy of getting ourselves three trillion dollars into debt.
I want you to get a close look at it in case you need any Christmas present ideas for me.
The baby had the most fun throwing his ball down the wide corridors. And while I thought this was a bad idea, other people cheered him on, caught the ball, kicked it back to him. They clapped and laughed and a group of tourists took his photo all at the same time while he posed and smiled as if he were Angelina Jolie.
Finally I had to pick him up and get him out of there before it started to get too weird.
He then played soccer on our National Mall…
In front of the Washington Monument…
In front of the United States Capitol…
Inside the Library of Congress…
We took a tour of the Capital
(those ladies up there painted inside the dome of the Capital hanging out with George Washington are supposed to represent the 13 colonies), and whizzed through the Library of Congress (I only got a photo of the corner).
We went to the National Aquarium which was really disappointing and not our Nation’s proudest moment. We should just leave that to the Cousteaus. We hightailed it over to the National Museum of American History where we saw exhibits on the Presidents, the Civil War and other important things like…
Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers (clearly made of sequins)
Julia Child‘s Kitchen
Archie Bunker‘s Chair! My favorite!
Articles of clothing worn by the First Ladies.
We walked over to the National WWII Memorial where he proceeded to run as fast as he could into to the giant Memorial Fountain right past the sign that says…
Please Be Respectful and Stay Out of the Fountain
So I scooped up the baby and he howled in defiance. Thank goodness there were several WWII Veterans visiting the Memorial that day who took one look at him and threw their heads back with laughter. They didn’t seem the least bit disrespected.
From here I dragged him over to the Lincoln Memorial where he proceeded to climb all the way up to the top while resting onlookers cheered him on.
Oh! And guess who arrived in DC at the Kennedy Center the same day we did? Jacques! He was attending a special performance of Suzanne Farrell‘s ballet company. They were playing a video on a loop in the main hallway of the two of them dancing back in the day. I told Jacques he really needed to stop following us around.