Monday, February 8, 2016

A visit to Washington, DC and Old Town Alexandria

Last week we traveled down to Washington, DC for a few days. I had a work thing, so H. and L. did some sight-seeing.

Once I was done work, I had an afternoon and a morning for some sightseeing myself. We went to the National Museum of the American Indian. I can't tell you at all if this is a great museum, though I suspect it is. However, L. was sucked into the imagiNATIONS Activity Center, and that's all we did. But that was fine. And he chose a Stress Llama as a souvenir - child after my own llama-loving heart.

As we left that museum, L. fell asleep, which gave us the good fortune of having almost 2 hours in the National Gallery of Art!

My favorites were the early American paintings, but also the Whistlers and the Sargents, of course. We also saw the current exhibition, Powers and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World, which was excellent too.

Had L. been awake, none of this would have happened. Or; none of it would have happened easily. Lucky timing.

Aside from all the, you know - art, the National Gallery itself is a beautiful building, and I took all opportunities to snap some creepster shots through the galleries.

Then, on Saturday we went to see Old Town Alexandria, where we were given a fantastic itinerary by Alex from Old Town Home, who also met us for some hot drinks after our tour! After we left, H. said to me "he's like a totally normal person." I'm not sure what he was expecting... but it was nice to meet you, Alex!

Old Town Alexandria is just as beautiful and charming as it looks on Old Town Home, and if I hadn't had a grumpy toddler or a train to catch, I could have easily dropped several dollars in any of the shops along King Street. Another time...

It was also super easy to get to without a car. We took the DC Metro (which is easy with a stroller!), and then the free trolley from the station.

Washington, DC is such a nice place to visit, even if it's for work. It's easy to get around, and because the museums are (almost) all free, I don't feel bad if I can only see part of the collection in one visit. I was also surprised at how the museums even have activities for little kids - the imagiNATIONS Activity Center mentioned above, but the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum even has story time for little kids (L. learned all about the sun!).

Also, they have Nando's in DC, so we ate there twice, and L. loved it too.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Traveling on Amtrak with a Kid (How to Pre-board)

Warning: this post contains advice for parents. I am not a MOMMY BLOGGER, but I do want to share my experience, while also not try to portray myself as some kind of parenting expert just because I've been at it for 2.5 years. That said, I was looking for info when preparing for our recent trip, and found it a bit hard. So, if kids bore you (and I understand, I really, really do) - feel free to skip on to the next post in your reader. If you're interested in traveling with a babe or tot in arms, read on. 

Earlier this week we traveled down to Washington, DC. I'll post more, with some pics, later, but I wanted to share some advice.  It's a fact that the most popular most I have ever written was on traveling to Iceland with a baby. I guess it hit the magic SEO mixture to help parents like me Googling for specific travel advice for kids. If that worked, this should too: how to get pre-boarding on Amtrak trains with babies, toddlers and/or kids.

Have you ever wondered if Amtrak offers pre-boarding or priority boarding on their trains, like an airplane? They answer is: yes, they do - for a bribe (or tip). Just use their Red Cap Service. It's free, though you do have to tip. And you need to ask about 15-30 minutes before your train's scheduled departure. They will carry your bags onto the train, before anyone else boards.

This is especially useful at New York Penn Station, which is an absolute sh*tshow, but you can do it at any station that offers Red Cap Service. Stress-free. You can even sit in their designated seating area while you wait to board before the masses.

What to tip a Red Cap? I'm not sure. I usually give $2-$3 per bag, but there was an Australian tourist on our train the other day who gave $25 (I'm pretty sure she was just super confused).

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

What to read next (my January reads)

One of my goals this year is through 35 books. I think that before I had a kid, that number probably seemed... not lofty. Anyway, I don't need to explain more.

If every month is as successful as January, I'll beat my goal way early - because somehow I managed to read five books in January! And, like, proper-sized ones, too.

1. Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis

While I liked this book, it certainly was weird, and heavy. The premise is that the gods grant fifteen dogs human intelligence in a bet, and from there we follow the lives and deaths of those dogs, and how they live with this new intelligence. Funny at times, devastating at others - this is a good one if you enjoy pondering your existence... or like talking dogs.

2. The Heart Goes Last: A Novel by Margaret Atwood

If you know me, you know that I love Margaret Atwood. Alias Grace is one of my favorite novels, ever. I thought I'd die of impatience waiting for the MaddAddam trilogy to complete. But, I didn't love this one. There are some pretty major plot holes, and I didn't really connect with any of the characters.

3. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

This is an excellent book. Thought provoking and challenging, and so beautifully put. It brought me to tears more than once. Everyone should read this book.

4. Undermajordomo Minor: A Novel

I looooooved Patrick DeWitt's previous book The Sisters Brothers. It remains one of the best books that I've read in the past few years. And, I liked this book a lot too, though a lot of the reviewers didn't. It is weird. Very weird. But I really enjoy DeWitt's unusual style, particularly the dialogue.

5. Trans: A Memoir by Juliet Jacques

This a good book to read if you're interested or curious about the struggles faced by trans people, the struggle to find identity, to navigate relationships, public perception, the harassment and abuse, coming out to loved ones, your employer, yourself, and to find your place in the world.

Right, so there were my January reads. Yes, this post is filled with affiliate links, because - why not?

Sunday, January 31, 2016

My start and end as a fashion blogger.

At Thanksgiving, my mom brought down some old outfits that belonged to my great aunt, who died in 2012. It was from her that I inherited my Inuit art (and probably my appreciation for it), as well as some other tchotkes and books that I display around the apartment.

My great aunt had an appreciation for quality, in her art and decor, and in her clothes. The clothes that my mom brought me at Thanksgiving are all well made, from boutiques that (I'm sure) were located in Toronto's Yorkville area. They are, however, very 1970s.

Back in the 9th grade, some friends and I somehow convinced our history teacher that we should submit a video of the fashions of the 1960s. Somehow, my teacher was willing to let us out of class to work on this video, and to accept this video as "work". We went to Goodwill - especially "Buy the Pound" in Toronto (anyone remember that place?!) and bought a variety of clothes we thought were very 60s - bell bottoms, polyester shirts, etc. We then created a video of ourselves walking a catwalk wearing these clothes. I was 15 and awkward, with bad posture that I hoped would hide the fact that I was busty, and long, long hair to hide the fact that I was unfashionable. I really hope that video no longer exists.

Anyway, here is part two, featuring just me - still awkward! Displaying the fashions of the 1970s...

 Here I am wearing a blue suede number - it weighs about 10lbs. It has a matching polyester shirt, and cool golden buttons and embellishments. As you can see, our model couldn't be bothered to put makeup on, or shoes, or tights. Hey, it's Sunday, all those things are unnecessary.

Perhaps this is rayon, and it also comes with a kooky little scarf that I forgot to put on. I actually like this pleated skirt, though the length doesn't really suit me. As you'll notice, our model found some shoes to wear.

Here's a nice look for the January board meeting. It's got a woolly, textured look, but I believe it's a synthetic material. Our model continues to wear shoes, but no makeup, and apparently has lost her neck. Tyra would be so mad.

I actually kinda like this jacket. Not really my style, or color palette (ie not a shade of black), but it's cute. It also has nice bone buttons. I have no idea how to edit the glare out of my specs, so I look particularly geeky.

Finally, evening wear!

I was actually given this years ago, and I love it always and forever. It even used to fit me (read: before pregnancy), but now it doesn't zip all the way. L. likes when I wear it and said I look like a princess, so obviously I gave him $200 and promised he would always be my favorite and that I will leave all my worldly belongings to him.

And thus ends my fashion blogging career, as well as my modelling career.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

I did it! The Whole29! Wait...

I have completed my foray into Whole30 living after 29 days. No, it wasn't that my cravings did me in on the second-last day, it was that I had a business lunch, and I wasn't going to demand a meal made for me within the restrictions of no dairy, no grains, no sugar, no soy, etc.

Bagels... Girls, I missed you.

Even though I opened my mouth and heart to cheese on day 29, I maintained no sugar until day 30 (my last bite of sweet gold being on December 30). That means I successfully went sugar-free for a month! I did it!

In case you don't realize how hard that is: there is sugar in everything. There is sugar in most chicken and vegetable stock. There is sugar in bread. There is sugar in tonic water. There is sugar everywhere. I made my own ketchup! And it was good!

Today, in celebration of my success, I ate some delicious dark chocolate. And it was good. And I ate a grilled cheese sandwich. And it was good. Tonight, I will order burritos. They will be extremely good.

Tacos, from happier times
H. asked me what I thought after the end of this. Well, I don't feel super-charged or anything. I have lost a tiny bit of weight, but I think that's from less snacking (because fewer options). It did help me get into the practice of better meal-planning, incorporating better, healthier sides at dinner, and having veggies in-hand.

Above all, I'm happy that I avoided sugar for so long. No doubt, my longest experience without sugar since I started eating solid foods.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Day 20

So, I'm on Day 20 of the Whole30. 2/3 of the way there. I honestly can't believe I've made it this far.

So, how is it? I think I can say that my cravings have subsided. I've gotten used to preparing my meals ahead of time, of making my lunches, of frequent trips to the grocery store. I'm paying more money for groceries (veggies and more meat), but no wine so that probably evens out.

I still think about cookies, a lot. Like every day. I've frequently thought "as soon as this is over, I'm going to eat an entire bag of Trader Joe's cookies." I've honestly thought that. And I might just do that. And I might eat nothing but pizza.

According to the Whole30 book, from days 16-26 (or so) you are supposed to feel like "tiger blood". I don't feel that. I don't really feel any different, except smug, maybe.

cupcakes, I will see you soon!
I have been doing one thing that is not "in the spirit of" Whole30. I've been eating 2 ingredient egg/banana "pancakes" every morning since about day 9, because I just cannot eat eggs every day as eggs. The bananas kind of mask the egg-ness. I love eggs, don't get my wrong. I love runny eggs with toast, or scrambled eggs with cheese...

Fake pancakes are not allowed because faking any kind of treat is a no-no. You must not even want to eat those delicious things! Your body must be above it! But, in that way, my desire/plan to eat an entire bag of cookies on day 31 is probably not in the spirit of the Whole30 either.

just a random wall.
And what after all this? Well, I think I will continue aspects of it in a minor way. I could do fewer grains and more veggies. I could do less sugar. I don't actually eat that much dairy as is, actually. So, we'll see - I'm still thinking about it. I've still got ten days!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

I Made This - January Project: Apron

One of my goals this year is to sew 12 new projects - new to me patterns. I decided to ease into this with a simple child's reversible apron, from the pattern found on Aesthetic Nest.

I made one for L. and one for my oldest friend's little girl. It's ok, she doesn't read my blog, so it will still be a surprise.

The pattern was very easy, and I even figured out how to use the buttonhole foot on my sewing machine, so I learned something new!

Here they are being modeled on L's play kitchen.

For Little M's apron, I used some Liberty fabric, which makes this the fanciest child's apron ever.

For L's apron, I used some leftover wood fabric from his first Halloween costume.
Nobody's here for the fancy photos, but still - I apologize for the poor quality of these pics. I had a vision of L modeling his apron, while pretend-playing with his kitchen, but those photos turned out like this:

Does blogging ever get more "real" than a grumpy kid and the junk around the apartment?

Oh well.

Project 1, complete.
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