Connie and Leonora

Connie joined us for our first week in Mexico City, flying down in the afternoon the day after our own arrival. A bright “I made it!” grin on her face and that of her taxi driver, a common side effect of successfully navigating a new destination without a common language other than smiling and waving.

In the months before our trip, she had become fascinated by the life and art of Leonora Carrington, a surrealist artist who called Mexico City home for most of her adult life. Connie shared with us how much she loved the story of a strong woman artist, the sacrifices she’d made to remain independent and creative, and the range of powerful mythological and indigenous imagery present in Leonora’s work. This excitement infected us too in anticipation of our visit to this magical metropolis, and we quickly made plans to share our time and lodgings in order to experience Leonora’s city with Connie.

A great bronze sculpture by Leonora sits prominently along the Paseo de la Reforma in the center of Mexico City. Originally installed in a fountain of Chapultepec park, it now sits in the pedestrian boulevard at Havre. Apparently Lewis Caroll’s whimsy was a recurring source of inspiration for Leonora, this piece is often referred to as “Cocodrilo” but the full title is “How Doth The Little Crocodile…”. We walked up from the metro stop Insurgentes, sunshine warming the pedestrian mall of Zona Rosa and dappling the Paseo’s wide walkway. As we neared the statue, the roadway was closed and filled with a long line of riot cops stretching to the ongoing protests for the now-nine-months-missing Ayotzinapa 43, beneath a banner declaring “Government and Education should not Assassinate.”. The crocodiles of the statue are frozen above our heads rowing away from this memorial and back towards the Angel and forest of Chapultepec.

Leonora’s former home in Mexico City is a reasonable twenty minute walk from the Paseo, south of the Insurgentes station on the small side street Chihuahua. Nearby a delicious-smelling bakery’s delivery fleet of bicycles were just heading out with baskets. Much of the neighborhood is rebuilt following the ’85 earthquake, but it is possible to imagine Leonora living behind the remaining simple facade here until her death in 2011. After a further walk among the figs and hibiscus flowers of Avenida Amsterdam’s garden-like path, we enjoyed a favorite lunch of tacos al pastor at El Califa and returned home to discuss Leonora’s surrealist influences from alchemy to mythology.

Bakery bicycle delivery
El Califa classic

One of our favorite educational stops here is the National Anthropology Museum, an overwhelmingly massive building featuring indigenous pre-conquest and modern-day artifacts from all regions of Mexico. In 1963 Leonora was commissioned to paint a mural for the Mayan exhibit, and she traveled to the state of Chiapas for inspiration and folklore research, resulting in “The Magical World of the Mayans”. Luck was on our side in finding this complexly surreal mural in the museum as it recently left Mexico for the first time to be exhibited at London’s Tate Liverpool, but it was waiting unmistakably for us on the second floor. The detail and energy of the piece absorbed us for thirty minutes at the end of our anthropological tour, so many strange faces, animals, and mystery blended in her interpretation of heaven, earth, and the underworld.

At the National Anthropology Museum
The Magical World of the Mayans

Two other museum experiences anchored Connie’s visit to the time and place of Leonora’s Mexico City. The Museum of Modern Art, though it did not have any of Leonora’s work on display, presented two fitting exhibits: A large collection of Giséle Freund’s documentary photography featuring Mexican artists, studio spaces, and exhibitions; and an assortment of films about artists featured Remedios Varos and David Alfaro Siqueiros alongside several of their works.

On Connie’s last day with us, we returned to Frida Kahlo’s home and museum (La Casa Azul), a short walk from our apartment. Every time I’ve been inside is so peaceful despite its popularity, it must have been a marvelous place to live and create through the pain; a wonderful light-filled studio and kitchen, and a garden courtyard filled with greenery, running water, and the omnipresent dark volcanic stone of Mexico City.

In Frida Kahlo's Blue Courtyard

Driving South

An assortment of moments captured as we made our way from Philadelphia to Milledgeville:

Wednesday 9:02am: The movers arrived in Philadelphia to help us load our U-Pack pod. We’ve narrowed down our belongings significantly, and with Luke’s predetermined layout, were able to (just) fit everything into the crate.

Luke loads the last of our belongings into the pod

Luke loads up the pod

There goes our little pod - see you in Georgia!

There goes our little pod – see you in Georgia!

Wednesday 6:25pm: Our last night in Philly, we headed back to Monk’s Cafe for Belgian beers and food. Delicious!

Monk's Cafe

Monk’s Cafe

Thursday 12:26am: Road construction continued for the second night this week. We’d sold our a/c units, so keeping the windows open was a necessity. Sadly, the city chose this week to strip and repave our street. Doubly painful, they worked at night when there were fewer cars on the road. Jackhammers, the beeping of machines backing up, and the yells and whistles of the construction crew woke us up throughout the night.

Thursday 12:37pm: On the road! Irritated by the constant construction of Philadelphia, we made a pact to state things we’re thankful for during our year-long adventure here. For me, it was a year to discover what I want to do for a career, to set personal goals, and to continue developing the confidence I need to achieve them. For Luke, it was a year to explore the east coast, take advantage of our proximity to the Italian Market, and have meaningful conversations about our future.

Thursday 7:30pm: Dinner at Evening Star in Alexandria, VA. Good conversation with great friends and yummy food. Nights like this remind us how important it is to make time for the folks we care about, and to make a solid effort to be social in our new town.

Friday 11:02am: Stuck in traffic outside Richmond, VA. Laughed together at the lyrics to “How Many Drinks” by Miguel.

Friday 5:30pm: After a long day of driving, we set up camp at Badin Lake in North Carolina. Luke made a fire, and we played Gin while waiting for the thunder to turn to rain.

Badin Lake campground

Badin Lake campground

Friday 9:02pm: Fell asleep to the sound of rain plopping off our tent.

Saturday 5:30am: We’re the first site to wake up at the campground. We had the showers to ourselves, followed by breakfast and coffee around the fire. Ready for the drive to my parents house in South Carolina!

Saturday 6:45pm: A full homemade Southern dinner at Mom and Dad’s, including baked ham, potato salad, fried green tomatoes, crowder peas covered in hot chow-chow, cornbread, and peach blueberry crumble.

Sunday 9:15am: A full homemade Southern breakfast at Mom and Dad’s, including biscuits, gravy, bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs with cheese and green onions, fresh tomato slices, and cantaloupe. With full bellies, we made the final (and easiest) leg of the trip down to Milledgeville.

Saturday 4:32pm: After unloading the car in our rental cottage on the lake, we drove into the downtown area for exploring. A trip to the grocery store on the way home, followed by settling in back at the cottage.

Relaxing at the lake house

Relaxing at the lake house

We’re happy to be in Georgia, and look forward to sharing more of our adventures here with you soon!

Spring Break in San Francisco

After a bumpy flight across the Rockies, we landed on Friday afternoon to a beautiful sunny day in Northern California. Our itinerary was nicely divided into three parts – weekend tech conference in Santa Clara, three nights in Marin County with our friend Andy, and four nights in Oakland with our friend Nicole. Sunshine every day, and a much-needed break from school and job applications…welcome to my Spring Break!

With lots of great Chicago friends in town for the conference, it was nice to catch up with everyone over dinner. Luke attended many sessions, networked like a grown up, and ran a 5k. I ordered a lot of room service and took many naps. Off to a great start!

Luke just after completing his first 5K

Luke just after completing his first 5K

Sunday afternoon, Andy came to collect us and drive us up to San Francisco proper. We stopped at the Dovre Club for beer, whiskey, and twice-baked potatoes (it was St. Paddy’s Day, after all), then drove to the top of Twin Peaks for a panoramic view of the city. Dinner at an amazing Thai restaurant, then a walk to the end of the Ferry Building for a view of the Bay Lights, before heading across the Golden Gate Bridge and up to the Fairfax/San Anselmo area to Andy’s home.

Andy's apartment

Andy’s apartment

Sunny and bright apartment with greenery out every window

Sunny and bright apartment with greenery out every window

Luke, Andy, and I all worked during the days, then spent the late afternoons and evenings together.

Luke and Maddie hard at work

Luke and Maddie hard at work

Among our many adventures, we drove out to Point Reyes for a beautiful view of the coast:

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Point Reyes Lighthouse

Point Reyes

Point Reyes

Point Reyes lighthouse

Point Reyes Lighthouse

Quite the nice digs for the Park Ranger, Point Reyes

Quite the nice digs for the Park Ranger, Point Reyes

We hiked along the hills behind Andy’s house (sliding in places, but worth it for the views):

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Andy and Maddie

Andy and Maddie

Luke

Luke

We spent a nice afternoon in Sausalito, delighted by the Heath Ceramics Factory Store and the Bay Model Visitor Center:

Bay Model, Sausalito

Bay Model, Sausalito

Rainbow!

Rainbow!

followed by a tour of Golden Gate Park and the Presidio:

Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park

Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park

Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park

Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park

Luke on a steep bridge, Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park

Luke on a steep bridge, Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park

And we all curled up to watch “About Schmidt” with steaks, wine, and Cowgirl Creamery cheese. I still say that movie’s a comedy. Andy and I also went to Open Mic night at Peri’s. It was all magical.

Wednesday night, we drove across the bridge to Oakland, where Nicole was there to greet us! A group dinner at Homeroom (at last! I’ve heard so much about it) before Andy left us in Nicole’s care. Her new apartment is also lovely – brand new hardwood floors and appliances mixed with old-school California character.

Nicole was also able to work half-days, which meant lots of great time to catch up in person! On Thursday, we ventured out to Bakesale Betty for an unbelievably good sandwich.

Fried Chicken sandwich at Bakesale Betty

Fried Chicken sandwich at Bakesale Betty

Then we walked through Temescal Alley and over to Rockridge for coffee and a good heart-to-heart. We stopped into George and Walt’s for a beer, then decided to stay for another, along with an exciting bit of March Madness. Next, we walked down to Piedmont for a snack before meeting up with Luke for pizza at Boot and Shoe Service. We ended the day with a nightcap at Smitty’s, although we left before our selection, “2 legit 2 quit,” came up on the jukebox. I’m sure the other patrons enjoyed it in our absence.

Friday, Luke finished work early and we headed up to Rockridge for beers at The Trappist.

Yummy!

Yummy!

Luke at The Trappist

Luke at The Trappist

We returned home to find Nicole with freshly dilated pupils from her eye exam. At least she can rock the optometrist’s shades.

Nicole, who can't see in this photo, but looks gorgeous nonetheless

Nicole, who can’t see in this photo, but looks gorgeous nonetheless

That night, we enjoyed food trucks, beers, and salsa dancing as part of the Oakland Museum of California’s Off the Grid. Then we bar hopped, enjoying drinks at Beer Revolution, Liege, and Nick’s Lounge, where one of my favorite Nicole rituals resurfaced–Karaoke to “Baby Got Back.”

Terrible photo, but I love that the lyrics came through

Terrible photo, but I love that the lyrics came through

Saturday, we rode BART to the Mission, where we toured the awesome murals in Clarion Alley.

Clarion Alley

Clarion Alley

Luke in Clarion Alley

Luke in Clarion Alley

Clarion Alley

Clarion Alley

Clarion Alley

Clarion Alley

Clarion Alley

Clarion Alley

We grabbed lunch from Ike’s Place (check out their incredible sandwich selection) and picnicked in Dolores Park. Then we strolled around the local shops before settling in for yummy desserts at Mission Pie. Nicole headed home to prepare for that night’s dinner party, while Luke and I meandered through Bernal Heights and daydreamed about our future.

Our last night in San Fran was the perfect combination of good friends, food, and conversation. Andy rejoined our group for dinner, and returned again ridiculously early to drive us to the airport for our Sunday morning flight. It’s nice to be reminded what incredible friends we have – Andy and Nicole went out of their way to make us feel welcome, toured us around their favorite local haunts, and took time away from their busy lives to have great, important talks over pints of beer. It was a lovely break, and we can’t wait to do it again!

NYC and NYE

The work week between Christmas and New Year’s is always a tricky one. Your brain and body know that you should still be on vacation, and yet there is work to be done. By the time the following weekend rolled around, Luke and I were both ready for another escape. Luckily, our friends Tara and Alex arrived in NY from Chicago and invited us up for a visit!

We hopped in the car Saturday morning and made the much-talked-about-but-never-attempted drive up 95 to New York. The road was calm, we suspect due to the light snow that began to fall right as we were leaving. In less than two hours, we made our way through Pennsylvania and New Jersey, across the bridge to Staten Island, and across another bridge into Brooklyn.

We had a hunch that on clear days, the views of Manhattan from either bridge were pretty great. Today, however, we had to settle for drawing an imaginary cityscape in rough proximity to where we remember the famous buildings to be. Is that the top of the Chrysler building? Or a bird?

This was our first trip to Brooklyn, and we were delighted to find it even more hilly and slope-like than we’d imagined. It’s also a lot bigger than we’d expected, encouraging us to make an on-the-fly decision about which section to explore over our lunch break. While Luke kept his eyes on the road, I tracked down the one place in Brooklyn I’d always wanted to visit – Catbird.

CatbirdPhoto credit: catbirdnyc.blogspot.com

Catbird
Photo credit: catbirdnyc.blogspot.com

Catbird is a small store in Williamsburg that sells the most beautiful, delicate jewelry. The online store is my go-to spot for daydream shopping, and the in-person store is equally enjoyable. Several people gathered around the few cases of goods, and while my initial reaction was to stare them down in the hopes that they would step aside and let me ogle alone, I realized two important things: 1) Most of these people were actually intending to buy something and 2) My stare-down technique is not as menacing as I’d hoped. Nevertheless, the store is lovely.

Around the corner, we ducked into Fornino to warm ourselves inside and out with wood-fired pizzas. So many amazing specialty pizzas to choose between, Luke opted for the Patate E Salsiccia (Mozzarella, Cherry Tomato, Fennel Sausage, Fontina, Fingerling Potato, Roast Peppers) while I chose the Margherita Classica (Tomato, Mozzarella, Basil, Olive Oil, Parmigiano).

After lunch, we strolled along the neighborhood streets and made our way to waterfront. Still no real views of Manhattan, and the wind, rain, and snow made it quite brisk. Soon, we were seated in a coffee shop for another round of warming.

Finally remembered to take a picture with both of us!

See Manhattan? Nope.
Photo credit: Luke

By mid-afternoon, we returned to our car and finished the drive up and over to Long Island. Greeted by Alex’s family, we quickly found ourselves surrounded by enormous plates of pasta, eggplant parmesan, and crab salad. Delicious!

That night, a group of us took a trip into the City. Our destination – the Phish show at Madison Square Garden. The 45-minute train ride was a great combination of beer, friends, and conversation. Arriving at MSG, we stopped in the basement to enjoy $1.99 beers before heading into the show, where dancing and more dancing took place. Another train ride back, this one a little quieter as we’d all exhausted ourselves.

Sunday morning, we gathered around the kitchen island to drink coffee and continue catching up with each other. Alex and his father set up a small film projector to review several reels they’d recently found at his grandmother’s house. Around lunchtime, several of Alex’s cousins and their families arrived and a feast of sausage and peppers, pasta, pizza, and more eggplant parmesan ensued. Luke and I commented that we need to make eggplant more of a feature in our cooking – so yummy, every time.

Alex and Joe working on the projectorPhoto credit: Luke

Alex and Joe working on the projector
Photo credit: Luke

As we loaded up our car and thanked our awesome hosts for a wonderful weekend, we were given bags to pack up our favorites from among a long table of sweets – cannoli, cookies, cakes, and candies. Hugging our sweet friends good-bye, we began our drive back across the bridges, finally catching a clear view of Manhattan.

As we crossed the state line from New Jersey back into Pennsylvania, I realized that I had Tara’s drivers license in my purse (from the concert). Shoot! A few phone calls later, and Tara was hot on our trail, making it to Philly not long after we did. It was great to show her our apartment and neighborhood, and grab one more hug before she headed back to NY. All in all, it was a whirlwind, wonderful visit.

New Year’s Eve was a quiet affair – cards and champagne, and nudging each other awake until midnight. We made jokes about becoming old, while also relishing in being far removed from the chaos taking place in the streets outside.

On New Year’s Day, we woke early, filled our travel mugs with coffee, and walked over to Broad Street for the famous Mummers Parade. This is, hands down, the strangest and funniest thing we’ve done in Philly. After reading countless articles about the history of the parade, I still can’t confidently tell you what it’s about. Our experience with it was watching many groups perform song and dance numbers, all with beers in hand and wearing make-shift costumes with themes like Elvis, High Vis, and Frogs. Elaborate (and not so elaborate) floats followed behind, along with bead throwers, ribbon-clad judges, and U-Haul trucks to transport the props. It was amazing.

Mummers Parade

Mummers Parade 2013
Photo credit: Luke

Mummers Parade

Mummers Parade 2013
Photo credit: Luke

Mummers Parade 2013

Mummers Parade 2013
Photo credit: Luke

Sometimes you just need a friend

The semester is rapidly coming to a close, job applications are out and juries are deliberating, and my husband is out of town for work. (finger drumming sounds, finger drumming sounds). I haven’t had the chance to meet many people in Philadelphia yet, and have been craving a good long chat with a friend over drinks. Right on queue, one of my best friends sends me a message that she’s working in DC for a few days. (trumpet sounds, trumpet sounds). I grabbed student papers, a big cup of coffee, and took the train down for an afternoon adventure with Christine.

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Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station

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Grading on the train

Our plans were loose – leisurely lunch and cocktails with our friend Eric, then wandering through DC’s art museums. One of the best parts about traveling to DC for a few hours is that, with no admission costs for any of the museums, you can easily say hello to your favorite pieces while bypassing exhibits that don’t grab your attention. And if you think of something really important to tell your friend, you can just step outside and laugh.

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Christine in the National Portrait Gallery

Although I’ve been to the Portrait Gallery before, it was an entirely different experience to walk through the halls with a fellow artist. Christine is a crazy-talented painter, and hearing her perspective on the pieces made my heart smile.

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Happy day in DC

I was also happy to be there to snag this photo of Christine with Super-Obama. I love how her toe points out in classic heroine style.

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It was such a nice day – perfect weather, great conversation, art masterpieces, and cocktails. Thanks, CRXB. Sometimes you just need a friend.

When a friend comes to town

One of the best parts about moving to a new city is having your old friends visit you. This weekend Luke and I were lucky enough to have our first house guest – our good friend Andy. Seeing Philadelphia with fresh eyes, spotlighted by bright sunshine and brought to life with a fall breeze, gently reminded us to appreciate our picturesque neighborhood.

It was also the perfect opportunity to visit a lot of places we’d dog-eared for “some day.”

Dinner at Lemon Hill on Friday night was the perfect spot to settle in for comfort food, delicious cocktails, and long overdue catching up.

We kicked off our Saturday with $2 bloody marys at 12 Steps Down, a great local bar adjacent to the Italian Market.

Photo credit: Philly.com

After meandering through the Italian Market, sampling cheeses and daydreaming about kitchen equipment we can’t afford, we made our way to Taqueria La Veracruzana for an amazing lunch of chilaquiles, tacos de jalapeños rellenos, and burrito al pastor.

Photo credit: Dine Indie

Shopping on South Street is always an adventure, but I can’t believe it took us this long to step into Wooden Shoe Books & Records. I made a beeline for their section on Revolutions in Latin America, and will definitely be back when prepping for my class next semester.

Photo credit: Wooden Shoe Books

After dinner at Karma in Old City, we strolled across town to Rittenhouse Square and back, zigzagging between historical walking tours, frat boys on a scavenger hunt, and girls hobbled by their (too) high heels.

For a nightcap, we went into Tattooed Mom, a nearby two-story bar with pool tables (finally!) and stiff drinks.

Photo credit: Drink Philly

None of us remembered our cameras, but it was almost better that way. It was a lovely weekend of shared new experiences with lots of great conversation and being in the moment.