Good Reads for Spring

I have been on a serious reading kick this past month. In fact, I’m pretty impressed with the number of books I’ve actually finished {I have a bad habit of starting a book and not finishing it…}

While visiting Marblehead during our road trip adventures during spring break, I stumbled upon the Spirit of ’76 Bookstore and Card Shop while wandering around town.

What a treat! This indie bookstore is what book nerds dream about. I wished so badly that my sister were there with me – she loves to read and no doubt would have spent hours with me browsing the selections.

My favorite part of the shop (there were many!) were the rows-and-rows of books with handwritten descriptions sticking out of the top at the front of the store.

bookstore 1

It was like listening to a friend describe a book she’d just read that she just knew you’d enjoy!

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I loved reading the staff’s response to the books.

In addition to the whimsical handwritten reviews from staff, the Spirit of ’76 Bookstore also had a “Blind Date with a Book” section which totally hooked me.

book blind date

Between the surprise of not knowing what may be wrapped inside to the fact that the payment for the book would be gifted to a charity to purchase new book had me so smitten!

book blind date 2

I browsed the table full of wrapped books trusting only the handwritten description and settled on two: a Southern American/Mystery/Romance fiction novel for my sister and this one for myself:

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I’ve been completely engrossed with the current political scene. I’m certainly more interested in the stories of the democratic candidates so I reasoned that I’d be happy with a biography of either of the two.

As soon as I got back to my sister-in-law’s apartment after leaving the bookstore, I unwrapped mine and was quite delighted. hillary

Hillary Rodham Clinton: Do All the Good You Can by Cynthia Levinson

Inside the brown paper was a preview copy of Hillary Rodham Clinton: Do All the Good You Can.

I started reading the book while we were still in Marblehead and finished it as we drove home. In just 3 days I’d read it cover-to-cover.

Watching Hillary (we’re on a first-name-basis) run as the first likely female presidential nominee has been fascinating. As a woman in any field or on any platform there’s a tricky dance to balance power and being “like-able.” The struggle in politics really magnifies that pressure. It’s hard not to admire her.

If you like an inspiring story about an empowered female, this book’s for you.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

I’ve had my eye on Where’d You Go, Bernadette for a while. I love supporting locally owned shops so I jumped at the chance to treat myself to a copy after reading the staff’s review at the Spirit of ’76 Bookstore.

“To her Microsoft guru husband, Bernadette’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect, and to her 15-year-old, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom. Then Bernadette disappears.” – Review via Lauren of Spirit of ’76 Bookstore

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GUYS. This is the best book I’ve read in a while {and it had been a while…}.

For a week it completely consumed me. I carried it everywhere. When I got to the last few pages, I considered abandoning it because I just didn’t want it to end!

I found myself relating to both Bernadette (the Mom) and Bee (the daughter) in ways that surprised me. I felt like the wildly eccentric recluse Bernadette was my soul sister. She represents the extreme of what I could probably become if I 1) didn’t allow myself to create, 2) allowed my introvertedness to run wild, 3) hadn’t found a therapist I love.

Bernadette is so bazaar and yet I think we can all relate to her on some level.

If you’re looking for a story that will consume you, Where’d You Go, Bernadette is a winner. You can purchase a copy of Where’d You Go, Bernadette here from the Spirit of ’76 Bookstore.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Visiting the Spirit of ’76 Bookstore reignited my love of reading and set me off on a whirlwind of reading adventures.

After returning from our road trip, I finished reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. My mother-in-law bought it for me for Christmas and I couldn’t wait to read it.

big magic

This is a must-read for creative people. I felt so reassured while reading Elizabeth’s stories about her creative struggles. In a world where it always feels like everyone else is succeeding in all of their creative adventures, it was comforting to hear that despite what I see on social media, we’re all struggling. Sometimes it’s hard to hear the creative spark and if you miss the opportunity to fan the flame, the fire may just die. And on that note, I’m trying really hard to recognize when Big Magic is coming my way, toss my ego to the side and PLAY with the magic.

Read this book with a highlighter in hand if you’re feeling creatively defeated – Elizabeth will have you feeling better about your pursuits in no time (use your highlighter for some of those one-liner gems she sprinkles throughout so you can quickly refer back as needed for inspiration 😉 )

Current Reading: Sea Creatures by Susanna Daniel

My sister is an avid reader {she is, after all, a Reading Coach..}. Lucky for me, she keeps my bookshelves stocked with hand-me-downs. I was looking for another capturing story to get lost in when I pulled her copy of Sea Creatures from my stash. So far it’s really good!

sea creatures

What are you reading? I’d love to hear your recommendations for what I should read next!

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Road Trip Adventures, Stop 5: Salem, MA

It’s stop #5 on our spring break road trip! Today I’ll tell you about all the cool places we visited in Salem!

{If you want to follow along with the road trip from the beginning start with this post.}

Salem

Despite traveling into Salem almost daily when were in Marblehead (it’s where the train station was to get to Boston), we didn’t spend a ton of time there so this post will be a bit shorter than the others 🙂

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Where to Eat:

  • Howling Wolf Taqueria – Confession: We ate there 3 times in our short visit. It was that good!
    • What to order: Queso + chips and the Tofu Burrito (the pineapple salsa + grilled achiote-marinated tofu = what vegetarian dreams are made of).
  • The Ugly Mug Diner – this diner is quirky and cool as sh!t. They have a giant crocheted egg and bacon hanging from the wall as decor (so obviously I thought it was a super neat place). It’s a little greasy so plan a big walk and smoothies for the rest of the day 😉
    • What to order: Vegiluxe Deluxe Egg Sammich (Fried Egg, Portobello, Caramelized Onions, Roasted Tomato & Roasted Garlic Goat Cheese – YES please) and Home Fries.

Where to get COFFEE (because when on vacation you can never drink too much coffee!): Jaho Coffee & Tea (197 Derby Street)

  • What to order: The Coconut Chai Latte – please beware: this latte is life changing! It was amazing. I am now in the midst of research and experimentation attempting to create a mock version (so far it’s been a total flop, but my sister-in-law/former-Starbucks-barista/fellow-latte-lover has given me some great tips to try – stay tuned!).

Where to find souvenirs:

  • Peabody Essex Museum Gift Shop – While we didn’t tour the museum, we did visit the gift shop twice. It’s lovely! There are so many beautiful, unique gifts.
salem fountain

The fountain in front of the Peabody Museum – the raised area is a map of the city (lower parts are the “old city” & the higher parts are the “new city” if I remember correctly…)

If you’re into witchcraft, add Salem to your bucket list! There are witch museums, trinket shops and witch walks/tours everywhere! {Yes, I realize there is some history to explain why this may be the case}

Though – according to Cat – if you aren’t a fan of big crowds: avoid October. Salem swells with visitors – especially around Halloween (for obvious reasons).

If you’re planning a trip to Salem – check out the Official Guide to Salem, MA for additional ideas (like 10 free things to do in Salem) – and happy travels! 🙂

If you’ve ever been to Salem, I’d love to hear about your favorite places to visit so I can add them to my list for our next trip!

Road Trip Adventures, Stop 4: Boston, MA

Today I’m highlighting our 4th “stop” on our recent road trip: Boston, MA.

{If you want to follow along with the road trip from the beginning start with this post.}

Tuesday

Cat got us all set up with the MBTA app so we could use it to purchase our train ticket (how convenient is that?! You can purchase your train tickets on your phone!).

  • Tip: Download the MTA mTicket app (it’s free!) and go ahead and purchase at least 2 tickets (1 round trip). That way you’re not fumbling around trying to enter your credit card information while on the train. The tickets will sit in your app until you activate them (do that when you see the conductor coming through to check tickets after you board).

We boarded the train and enjoyed the scenery all the way into Boston.

train view

View from the train

Our main goal on Tuesday was to find the fabric store I’d been patiently waiting to visit: Mercer’s Fabric.

As a seamstress who loves to travel, I look forward to Seamwork Magazine‘s “The Seamworker’s Guide” each month – the guide features a city and includes a list of “must-visit” fabric shops in the area. In the June 2015 issue they featured Boston, Massachusetts. We knew Cat was heading there for grad school so I immediately pinned the post to my Travel Board.

By the description in the guide, I knew I would enjoy Grey’s Fabric so I started following the shop on Instagram. I realized in October that Grey’s Fabric was closing, but Mercer’s Fabric was taking over.

  • Tip: When you find shops that you want to visit, find them on social media and start following them before your trip. You’ll be able to get a good feel for what their shop is like through pictures and posts. Shops usually post about special items they offer that you may quickly glance past if you hadn’t read all about said item when it was featured on their social media (example: when Mercer’s Fabric posted these cute little cupcake pin cushion rings! I’m ashamed to say I didn’t buy one [and seriously regret it], but I would’ve looked right past them if not for the post I saw on Instagram).

Ok, back to our excursion to find Mercer’s Fabric…

We got lost. More than once. But Boston is a very walkable city so walking in circles wasn’t horrible and we ended up walking along the Harborwalk.

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View from the Harborwalk – North End

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View from the Harborwalk – North End

We finally found Mercer’s Fabric on Charles Street which was a really cute area! I was so excited to touch all of the fabric that I slacked off on picture-taking while in the shop so I only got 2.

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Mercer’s carries loads of patterns from indie designers including Colette (founder of Seamwork Magazine)

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A wall of colorful designer fabric – what could be more lovely?!

I found a bra-making kit in the corner of the store that I snagged. Bra-making is all the rage right now. I’ve been following the trend on Instagram and have become totally smitten with all the lace and girly details – plus, everyone who has made their own says the fit is worth the effort.

The kit I bought was compiled for the Marlborough bra pattern but said it could be used for others. Since I have access to the Florence bra pattern with my Seamwork Magazine subscription, I am going to give it a try before I purchase another pattern {because it’s very likely my bra-making adventures may be a total flop so I should keep my investment low 😉 }. Stay tuned: I promise to post all about the process when I take the plunge with my kit!

bra kit

Bra kit from Mercer’s Fabric

I also picked up 2.5 yards of a really lovely printed knit. I’m not totally sure what I’m going to make with it, but it’s highly likely I’ll make another Out and About Dress {because you know from this post and this post that it’s my very favorite pattern}.

After we left Mercer’s Fabric, we were starving.  A friend had recommended sweetgreen so we searched for the nearest location and started our trek. #WorthIt

  • Where to Eat: sweetgreen! Oh.my.yum! Salad has never tasted so good. Even the Hubs thought it was tasty.
first church

Scenery from our walk: First Church in Boston – built in 1630.

After fueling up on greens, we found the nearest metro. Instead of purchasing all-day passes like we did in DC, we just loaded enough money onto passes to get to Cambridge and back since that was our only non-walkable destination.

We headed for the Harvard Square Station on the metro in hopes of walking around Harvard’s campus. Apparently Harvard’s campus is notorious for just blending in [there’s no obvious sign or college-style-grass-quads] so we were never totally sure we’d made it. I had hoped to find the bookstore to buy my Mom a t-shirt, but frankly you can buy Harvard gear everywhere in Boston so that was low priority.

  • Where to stop for coffee: Darwin’s Ltd. Coffee shop – if you’re lucky [like us]: you’ll overhear a student discussing an experiment with his professor that you can’t even begin to understand, but you find totally fascinating nonetheless
    • What to order: the tuxedo cookie – I’m pretty sure this was the best cookie I’ve ever eaten! And I’m not even a fan of crunchy cookies!

darwin

While we were at Darwin’s, Jeremy got a call from one of his lacrosse teammates from PC. Turns out that Ben was arriving in Boston as they spoke so they made plans to meet up.

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The Hubs (right) and Ben.

Thankfully Ben is a good sport (aka: open to going to a vegetarian restaurant with us for dinner!) because the real reason we in Cambridge was because I read an article about Veggie Galaxy in an issue of Vegetarian Times magazine and immediately added it to my Food Bucket List.

GUYS!! An all-vegetarian DINER!! I couldn’t resist. We had to visit.

I got the Rachel sandwich which entailed: grilled, shaved corned beef seitan, green cabbage slaw, swiss cheese, and house-made thousand island dressing. It was even tastier than it looks.

veg galaxy 1

the Rachel in all her glory

We also ordered the Hot Fudge Brownie Sundae. The coconut whipped cream is the most delicious thing I have [very likely] ever experienced. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

  • Where to Eat: Veggie Galaxy – vegetarian diner.
    • What to order: I’m pretty sure there’s nothing you could order that wouldn’t be absolutely delightful. Though I do recommend the sundae {because *when in Rome*!}.

In other news, I’ve now added all 24 of these Vegan restaurants recommended by BuzzFeed to my Food Bucket List.

Wednesday

We returned to Boston via “the T” (train) again. This time we had less on our list.

boston

Since we got a late start, we got off the train and immediately looked for the nearest sweetgreen for lunch again (it was that good!). When we finally reached it, the line was wrapped around the block (seriously, that good!).

We turned around and found an alternative which turned out to be [dare-I-say?!] even tastier!

  • Where to Eat: Bon Me – apparently there is a food truck, but we stumbled upon the physical location of the restaurant. It’s Vietnamese served in a paper box. It is absolutely delicious.
    • What to order: Roasted Soy and Paprika Tofu Rice Bowl

Cat raved about the Boston Tea Party Museum so we stopped by the gift shop after lunch. Both the Hubs and I really prefer to explore on our own so we skipped a tour (though I heard that you get to throw fake tea into the harbor during the tour so maybe it’s worth it!).

We then headed toward the USS Constitution to start the Freedom Trail.

freedom trail

Before jumping on the trail, we explored the USS Constitution Museum. It was a bit cheesy and I wouldn’t add it to my “must visit” list, but the gift shop was neat. Unfortunately the ship was closed when we were there so we couldn’t tour inside.

Several friends had recommended following the Freedom Trail. It was so fun (and super enjoyable for travelers like us because you can follow it at your own will only stopping when you want to)!

  • Tip: Follow The Freedom Trail. This self-guided tour will lead you all through Boston on foot. You’ll pass loads of places to pop in for souvenirs or exploring. Not to mention all the fascinating historic sites you’ll see!

There’s a giant red line that winds all through the city so that you pass all kinds of wonderful historic sites – like the church where the signal lanterns of Paul Revere displayed in the steeple on April 18, 1775 to warn the country that the British were coming.

paul revere

And this in-action Paul Revere statue…

paul revere 2

We took a quick rest break by the statue and as we looked over we saw this:

north end dog

Look in the middle window on the second floor!

That bulldog sat in the window looking out at the passersby for quite a while – it was the cutest thing!!

Then we passed Paul Revere’s house:

paul revere 3

We passed several graveyards – none of which I can remember, but one of them housed the grave of Samuel Adams:

samuel adams

The trail also passed by Quincy Market which we had already explored the previous day, but we did take some time to watch the street performers out front – they were great!

In a nutshell, that’s our visit to Boston! Mostly we just wandered and enjoyed every minute.

Only 2 stops left for the road trip! I’ll be sharing all about Salem, MA and Virginia with you next week. 

Road Trip Adventures, Stop 3: Marblehead, MA

Sunday

After stopping in Alexandria and exploring DC, we reached our destination: Marblehead, MA – just outside of Boston.

The Hubs’ sister is attending graduate school at Salem State University. She has an adorable apartment that she agreed to let us to crash in for a few days while we explored the area {aren’t siblings the best?!}

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Clearly she’s very excited we’re visiting! 😉

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I call this one: “Pure Joy” – siblings 1 & 2 of 3.

Her apartment is in Marblehead which is on the coast and absolutely breathtaking!

marblehead 1

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Upon our arrival on Sunday, Cat showed us around some of her favorite spots.

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It was windy and chilly, but totally worth climbing the rock for the view!

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We arrived in the afternoon on Sunday so we spent most of the day exploring the area around Cat’s apartment and settling in.

Monday

Since it was supposed to rain all day Monday (and it did!), we decided to travel to Norwood. Why Norwood? Because the Hubs heard there was a MonkeySports Superstore there.

He has been ordering from Lacrosse Monkey and Hockey Monkey for quite a while and didn’t realize they actually had a physical location. Once he figured that out and realized it was within driving distance, we had to visit 😉

It was about an hour’s drive from where we were staying, but totally worth it [for him at least!]. His eyes totally lit up when we walked in. He was like a kid in a candy store.

Being that I know nothing about either sport [in my defense, I’ve tried to figure it out, but ultimately I’m just a clueless spectator], I found a comfortable place to sit for the hours he spent exploring.

{I had several fabric shops on my list so I took this as an opportunity to be very patient so I could remind him later 😉 }

Thursday

I’m jumping ahead to Thursday since we spent most of the day Thursday in Marblehead and this post is all about Marblehead.

While driving to the train station on Tuesday and Wednesday, we passed some of the cutest houses. I couldn’t wait to wind down the week and just wander through Marblehead to take in all the beautiful views.

church

firehouse

Even the firehouse is adorable! {I mean – look at that balcony!}

pink house

My tiny dream house!

ramp

rocks

shell

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Coast view

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This is our “if-we-win-the-lottery” dream house! Can you imagine waking up to that view every morning?!

house

The turquoise door and shutters of this house had me swooning!

Thursday was probably my very favorite day of our road trip. We woke up, walked out the front door and just kept walking.

My favorite thing to do when exploring a new place is to wander with no plan.

  • Tip: Pack comfortable walking shoes and spend a few hours wandering around the area you’re staying. Despite the fact that travel usually means vacation, it can still be a bit stressful [even if just physically stressful]. Walking is something I find incredibly helpful with my anxiety and is a neat way to discover beautiful scenery you may have just buzzed right past if you were driving everywhere. Be sure to take a camera with you.
    • So far this has served me well in every place I’ve visited, but if you have a poor sense of direction or are staying in a not-so-safe-looking-area I don’t know that I’d recommend this tip for you 😉
marblehead 11

Exploring with the Hubs will always be my favorite thing to do.

  • Where to Eat:
    • Shubie’s – it’s a cute, locally owned specialty grocery store with a tasty deli. My favorite part was that they had delicious samples all over the store {am I the only adult who gets crazy-excited when grocery stores have samples?! This is basically the reason I do the majority of my shopping at Trader Joe’s…}
    • Terry’s Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Shop – order yourself a small vanilla ice cream and ask for the warm cookie dough topping. YEP, you read that right: warm cookie dough.
      • This shop was walking distance from Cat’s apartment. I’m extremely proud to say we only went there twice {talk about serious self-control}.
  • Shops to visit: 
    •  The Spirit of ’76 Bookstore & Card Shop – this independent bookseller is the coolest bookstore I’ve ever been to! They have a really neat section of books wrapped in kraft paper with a description written on the front (called a “Blind Date with a Book”). I couldn’t resist so I picked up one for my sister as a souvenir:
book

Souvenir for my sister from the Spirit of ’76 Bookstore.

  • Scribe Paper & Gift – this shop had the cutest card selection! I had already stocked up on cards at Paper Source in Alexandria so I didn’t buy as many as I wanted to. But I did find a super fun mug for my Dad {I haven’t given it to him yet or I’d show you, but trust me: this shop is full of quirky, unique souvenir options!}.
  • Marblehead Outfitters – this shop reminded me a bit of our locally owned Backpacker. They had really cute t-shirts – I picked up this one for my sister:
t-shirt

Shirt from Marblehead Outfitters for my sister.

We loved our time in Marblehead! Up next I’ll be sharing all about the fun spots we visited in Boston {including a lovely fabric shop!}.

Road Trip Adventures, Stop 2: Washington, DC

Our 2nd stop isn’t technically a “stop” per se since we didn’t actually get in our car from Stop 1 to Stop 2, but for the sake of titling this post we’re gonna go with Stop 2 😉

Saturday

{In case you missed it, read all about how we started Saturday in Alexandria in this post!}

We hopped on the metro and glided into downtown DC. I love riding the metro. I particularly like riding the metro from Alexandria to DC because much of it is above ground with a nice view.

  • Tip: Unless you are visiting locations that are all condensed to a tight radius, splurge on the all-day/unlimited pass for the metro. That way you can save your feet [you’ll do plenty of walking regardless] and quickly take the metro from destination to destination.
    • If you aren’t super familiar with navigating the metro, use the Maps app on your iPhone. Just enter your desired destination and select “Transit” at the top. This will provide you with instructions for which lines / connections / stops you need to take to get where you’re going.
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In the Maps app, type in your destination then click Transit

The Newseum

When I visited DC for Tableau’s conference, they rented out the Newseum for an evening. It was so awesome! By now you probably know that I am a huge nerd. My car radio is always stuck on NPR and I often go to the gym just to watch the morning news on the treadmill (#truth).

After raving about how cool the Newseum was to my husband after the conference a few years ago, he added it to our list of places to visit. Since we knew we wanted to visit, I purchased our tickets online before we left so I could save 15% 🙂 The Newseum was our first stop from the metro.

  • Tip: If you know you want to visit some place that charges an entrance fee, check the website to see if you can get a discount by purchasing your tickets online.
    • FYI: I also saw that many of the tour companies also offer discounts if you purchase tickets in advance online.

Last visit to the Newseum I ran out of time and didn’t make it all the way to the top floor. I didn’t even realize that the 6th floor had a terrace you could walk out on to overlook Pennsylvania Avenue!

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View from the top of the Newseum

To the left you could see the Capitol!

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View of the Capitol from the Greenspun Family Terrace at the top of the Newseum

And here we are enjoying the view:

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We also took turns posing at the anchor desk in the Interactive Newsroom…like total nerds.

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We probably enjoyed this too much!

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The Civil Rights exhibit is one of my favorites. It’s so powerful. My favorite quote from the exhibit:

“You’ve got to get out there and push and organize and agitate and stand up and make some noise.” – Civil Rights Leader John Lewis

civil rights quote

Another of my favorite exhibits at the Newseum: “First Dogs.” This picture of Lyndon Johnson and his mutt named Yuki is my favorite!

lyndon johnson

President Johnson loved to “sing” with Yuki like in the picture (that’s his grandson on the right).

I can’t read the caption from the picture, but wanted to share the story with you [because I loved it!] so I snagged this from the a quick google search (source):

“Yuki was a mixed breed dog found by President Johnson’s daughter, Luci, at a gas station in Texas on Thanksgiving Day in 1966 […] At first, Yuki lived with Luci, but while visiting the White House, Yuki won the President’s heart and became his faithful companion. On the President’s birthday, August 27, 1967, Luci told her father that he could keep Yuki. When President Johnson left office on January 20, 1969, Yuki returned to LBJ Ranch with the President on Air Force One.”

One of my favorite stories found in the News History Gallery: why Helen Thomas started wearing red to press conferences:

red dress

Use what you’ve got to get what you deserve – you go girl!

Visiting the Newseum will give you a very serious new respect for reporters. Many risk their lives to bring us stories from around the world. It’s such an admirable field that gets way too few acknowledgements from the general public. So, to all my reporter-friends: THANK YOU for all you do!

After spending hours exploring all the floors of the Newseum, we were famished.

  • Tip: If you find yourself ravenous and without a plan for where to eat, use the Maps app on your iPhone {yes, in true Millennial fashion, we use our iPhones for everything}. Just open the app and click into the search bar. Some icons will appear – click on “Food” to view restaurants nearby. You can find a link to the restaurant’s website to find a menu and read reviews straight from the app.
maps 1

Click into the search bar then click on the Food icon

  • Where to Eat: Cava Mezze Grill! {Drool over the menu here and find a location here}

We ended up at Cava Mezze Grill in Chinatown since it had good ratings online and a tasty menu. It was amazing! It was kind of a build-your-own salad type place. I can’t remember my exact combination, but I know I started with Greens+Grains and roasted seasonal vegetables then topped it with the yogurt dill dressing.

The yogurt dill dressing was what really brought it home – so tasty! {I’m still searching for a copycat recipe so if you have a good one, share it in the comments!}

National Zoo

The National Zoo was on our list because 1) it was free and 2) they have pandas!

The pandas were a little shy during our visit so we patiently stood in a quick-moving line (PS: When you overhear the frantic tourists in front of you exclaim it’s a 30-minute wait, ignore them. The line moves fast). They were inside and only one was really visible in it’s room.

panda

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed that we only saw one of the pandas, but on the way out of the indoor panda exhibit, we saw this:

panda watch

“Current panda research underway…”

Watching pandas sleeping?! Best. Job. Ever. RIGHT?!

I mean, look at how sprawled out they all are! They must love to sleep as much as I do!!

{If you’re interested in having our heart turn to mush, you can view the Panda Cams online here!}

We visited the zoo in the afternoon which is either: a) a time the animals are all napping or b) the animals are so shy! Many of the exhibits were empty or the animals were hiding out of sight. It was a little disappointing, but still quite fun (and you can’t really complain when it’s free, right?!).

Lincoln Memorial

After the zoo, we hopped back on the metro and headed to the Lincoln Memorial. It was closer to the Newseum than the Zoo (oops) so I sure am glad we got those metro passes!

When we approached the Lincoln Memorial, we had a beautiful view of the Washington Monument and reflection pool.

washington monument

Washington Monument & Reflection Pool

The monuments were so crowded! I’m not a huge fan of big crowds, but I can weave in and out of them quite well (benefits of being short) so I use that to my advantage for picture-taking 😉

lincoln

Lincoln Memorial

We sat on the back side of the Lincoln Memorial for a while and watched the traffic while giving our soar feet a little break. It was a peaceful moment in a busy city – if you visit the Lincoln Memorial, walk around to the back side that overlooks the Arlington Bridge and take a few minutes to rest and watch the traffic. It’s quite nice.

To work our way back to Alexandria, we walked from the Lincoln Memorial to the Arlington Cemetery metro stop. Crossing the Arlington Memorial Bridge was lovely!

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View from the Arlington Memorial Bridge

Watching the planes fly over the bridge was neat! We even saw Marine One (or maybe it was Marine Two…who knows!) fly overhead. That was exciting!

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Marine One/Two flying over the Arlington Bridge

So we jumped on the metro and headed back to Alexandria where we ate at District Taco – it was pretty tasty, but nothing extraordinary.

My feet were aching so bad by the end of the day I could barely walk {according to my VivoFit, we walked more than 30,000 steps!!}. Luckily, I had the next day to rest them in the car as we headed to Boston!

Stay tuned: I’ll be telling you all about Boston, Salem and Marblehead next week! 

Follow along on our Road Trip with these posts: 

Road Trip Adventures, Stop 1: Alexandria, Virginia

As I mentioned in last month’s post, the Hubs and I took a road trip to Boston for spring break. Now that we’re back and feeling oh-so-refreshed, I wanted to share some trip highlights with you.

I’ve broken our trip into separate posts by location. I’ve sprinkled in travel tips that came in handy for planning our road trip. {PS: I’d love for you to share your travel tips in the comment section at the bottom of this post!}

Today I’m sharing about the first leg of our road trip: our stop in Alexandria, Virginia [with a quick visit to the National Harbor].

On our drive to Boston, we planned a two-day stop in Washington, DC. We booked a room at the Hampon Inn and Suites in Alexandria. The hotel was great! Very friendly staff, clean rooms, comfy bedding – I’d stay there again.

The hotel also offered free parking and a free shuttle to Alexandria/Old Town or the metro. Being that we were going to have plenty of time in the car, we ditched it for two days and utilized the shuttle and the metro.

Friday

We left bright-and-early so we could arrive to DC in the early afternoon.

National Harbor

We had considered staying at the National Harbor (I stayed there when I spoke at Tableau’s conference a few years ago and loved it), but once we factored in paying for daily parking, Alexandria [less than 10 minutes away] won for the budget.

Since we arrived to DC a few hours before hotel check-in, we drove straight to the National Harbor to check that off our “to visit” list.

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National Harbor

If you’re planning to visit DC, you should definitely plan a quick stroll through the National Harbor! It’s a gorgeous area to walk and there are often neat events going on (none for our dates though). It’s a very family-friendly area.

You can find all kinds of helpful information for planning your visit to the National Harbor here.

  • Where to Eat: Nando’s Peri Peri (flavorful Portugese cuisine. The National Harbor location has great outdoor seating).

Alexandria/Old Town

When we decided to stay in Alexandria, I quickly found a site with information for visitors (here!).

  • Tip: When planning a vacation or a stop on your roadtrip, google:
  1. things to do in [CITY, STATE]” – for bigger cities you can often find some great lists or blogs with ideas of cool places to visit, local events or other ideas for things to do you may not have thought of.
  2. visit [CITY, STATE]” – this will usually take you to a visitor’s site for the area. These are a great resource for tourists! I like to find hotel recommendations there [which I then follow-up with reading reviews from several sites like any trained researcher 😉 ]. I also like to browse the event calendars to see if there are any unique things going on during the time we’ll be there.

Friday we took the hotel shuttle to downtown Alexandria and explored. We walked along the waterfront and through Founders Park – it was gorgeous!

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We loved the walking paths and watching the dogs playing in the park. If we had a blanket, we definitely would have had a picnic here!

You can see downtown DC from the waterfront in Alexandria and if you look close enough you can see the Capitol!

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If you’re visiting Alexandria, take some time to walk along the waterfront before the sun goes down – it’s lovely.

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The cobblestone roads reminded me of Charleston. {Note: don’t wear heals!}

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After we’d had fun wandering around, we started looking for a dinner spot. There are lots of yummy options {you can browse some here}, but I did little research on food in Alexandria so we stumbled upon a pizza place without a long line – Bugsy’s – and went for it. We opened the menu only to find out the restaurant was opened by a former Montreal Canadien‘s hockey player {the Hubs’ favorite hockey team as shown ironically by his attire for the evening!}

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I spotted a beautiful paper shop across the street as soon as we left the restaurant. Have you ever visited a Paper Source store?! This was my first time. It’s definitely paper heaven.

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Yes, I admit it: I wish these were fabric. I would’ve bought them all! 😉

We picked up some quirky birthday and mother’s day cards before heading back.

Saturday

We got up bright and early [again] to maximize our day – we had a lot planned!

  • Tip: If your hotel offers free breakfast, take advantage of that! One less meal and coffee to purchase = more souvenir money! If you’re brave, snag an apple/banana/other non-refrigerated snacks to throw in your backpack for the day ahead.

Alexandria’s visitor site has a list of free things to do which was super helpful! I’m much more inclined to do something if it’s free 😉 [again: free events = more souvenir money].

On the list: the Old Town Farmers Market. We took the hotel shuttle to Alexandria early Saturday morning after breakfast. The shuttle dropped us right in front of the market which was full of beautiful flowers, locally grown produce, plants and handmade goodies. It was beautiful!

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Flowers at the Old Town Farmers Market

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More flowers at the Old Town Farmers Market {with festive bunnies for Easter!}

While walking to the King Street metro station from the market, we passed loads of beautiful shops. The area reminds me so much of Charleston with all the colorful buildings.

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If we hadn’t have set out so early, I would’ve loved to explore the Pendleton store!

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I’ve never been to a Pendleton store, but from the window it looked fabulous!

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That dress! And that sweater! #AllTheHeartEyes

After getting an all-day pass for the metro (it was about $15, but with destinations on our list that were spread out this proved to be worth it), we set off for downtown DC!

Stay tuned: I’ll share the details of our DC exploration this Friday. 

Follow along on our Road Trip with these posts: