Friday, December 21, 2018

Laura's Olive Dip

Y'all. I have been searching for this recipe for DAYS. My sister makes this really good olive dip. And years ago, she gave me the recipe.

I thought I had put it in my recipe box, which was regretfully stowed in a cabinet behind my Christmas tree and unreachable (at least for now). But I had such a hankering for this dip that I persuaded my husband and son to do some next-level acrobatics and get the recipe box. Only to discover that the recipe wasn't in the box, either!

In desperation, I texted her, and she texted me the recipe. So, I'm posting it here so I can ALWAYS find it. (The struggle is real, ya'll.)

Laura's Olive Dip

2 4-oz. cans of green chopped chile peppers (mild)
1 42-oz. can black olives
3.26-oz. jar of green stuffed olives
4 green onions
2 tomatoes
1/4 c. vegetable oil
2 T. vinegar
1/2 tsp. garlic powder

Combine and chill! Serve with Fritos or tortilla chips.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Austin Vibes

Me and LBJ are besties now.
In mid-November, just before Thanksgiving, I was in Austin, Texas, on business. We'd gotten into town reeeeally late the night before due to delayed flights, and then we'd spent all day in meetings, followed by dinner with a vendor. We'd sacked out in sheer exhaustion at our hotel, the Hampton Inn and Suites Austin (University/Capitol), but by the next morning, we were ready to do a little exploring.

Day 1

My business colleague had heard about a great place for breakfast tacos - a food truck called Veracruz. So we suited up and headed out. I got the migas - tortillas stuffed with eggs, cheese, cilantro, avocado, tomato, and other goodies - and they were delicious! They have a trio of sauces you can try with them. Wash it down with some hot coffee, and you won't be hungry again for a while! (And it's a food truck, so prices are really cheap!)

Then, we went to check out the LBJ Presidential Library. (I'm slowly adding presidential libraries to my collection!) You enter at the front desk, where LBJ's presidential vehicle is displayed, and you progress through a ground-floor exhibit that details his early life and his relationship with Lady Bird. (They have some of her letters to him, and they are a wonder! I would have liked this woman, had I known her.) They also have a cool photo wall where you can take a pic of yourself with LBJ! Fun!

Then, you go up a flight of stairs and into an open space where some of his achievements are represented - public broadcasting, Medicaid, environmental protections, vehicle safety. Everyone remembers Civil Rights and Vietnam, but there was so much more. He casts a long shadow.

The presence of Lady Bird is palpable in this town.
Then, it's into the exhibits, and there are tons of great ones! You can see his Oval Office, in addition to Lady Bird's office. They have displays about Kennedy's assassination and Civil Rights. They even have a (slightly creepy) animatronic LBJ! But what I liked best were the interactive kiosks throughout the museum where you could touch a button and listen in on recordings of his conversations with people. So telling about who he was. It felt so personal.

Then, it was back downtown to explore a bit. I popped into the Texas State Capitol Building, which dominates the view from Congress Ave., for a self-guided tour. The building is huge and beautifully appointed, and you can wander to your heart's content. The dome is incredibly impressive. (And slightly larger than the dome at the U.S. Capitol building in D.C., I'm told. That's Texas for you.) Paintings inside detail all of the governors of Texas (I was surprised by the number of women!), and there are some cute items in the on-site gift shop. The grounds are lovely, too, especially on a pretty day! This is a great place to spend an hour or two.

The Texas State Capitol is a gorgeous building.
By this time, I was hungry! I popped into Caffe Aragona for a drink and a quick Caprese salad. Refreshed, I walked down Congress Ave. toward the river for a look around. The area is lovely, with walking/biking trails all along the water. Kayakers abound. I peeped under the bridge, but most of the bats are gone by this time of year.

I ended up at The Driskill bar, where I had specialty cocktails (a batini and a bluebonnet) and a snack while a musician played guitar and sang. This place has a clubby, old Texas feel, and the drinks and food were great. Plus, it was a happening spot - lots of people in and out, enjoying their evening. Loved this place.

Afterwards, I pointed my feet toward the the Paramount Theatre, where I had tickets for an evening production of Potted Potter. This send-up show has two actors racing through the seven Harry Potter books in 70 minutes. Plenty of fun, audience interaction, and general mayhem. A great way to spend an evening! Plus, the theatre itself is gorgeous. The coves and the ceiling are richly decorated, and the lit sign out front feels momentous somehow.

The floor mosaic at the Bullock Museum entrances.
Then, it was off for a well-deserved night's sleep! On my walk back to the hotel, I took in glimmering views of the Texas State Capitol Building lit up dramatically at night. (I also crossed paths with an enterprising raccoon searching delicately through a bag of garbage. He was completely undeterred by my presence, and in fact, quite neat with his work.)

Day 2

The next morning, I breakfasted at the hotel and walked to the Bullock Texas State History Museum. An airy, expansive attraction, it's centered around a three-story open atrium with an intricate mosaic on the floor. I started out by climbing up to the third floor to delve into the temporary exhibit, vibrant paintings that combined traditional American Indian elements with more modern accents. The same artist also had bright, layered paintings on display that depicted American Indians in the midst of traditional activities like hunting or riding.

I loved this temporary exhibit featuring the Comanche.
There's so much to learn here about the story of Texas: early history, prominent figures, the Hollywood cowboy, minority groups, the rodeo. And they are completely renovating the exhibit space that houses La Belle, one of Robert de la Salle's ships from his late-1600s French colony. Really cool!

After my trip to the museum, I decided to rent one of the many bikes in the area to do a little pedaling around Lady Bird Lake. You can rent bikes from more traditional kiosks (where you have to return them), or you can rent bikes using an app. These bikes have GPS locators on them, in addition to QR codes, and they can be returned to any bike rack in the city. I chose the second option, just for ease, and took off! I rode my bike down Congress, hung a right at the river, and took the bike trail up to the Mopac Expressway, where I crossed under the overpass to Zilker Park. The, I rode back down through the park area, stopping to take pics and/or get a sip of water from a fountain.

I couldn't agree more!
A t around 1:30 p.m., I realized I was hungry. Luckily, my maps app told me that nearby was some of the best barbecue in Austin. I pointed my pedals toward Terry Black's BBQ. Now usually, I'm not one of those people who go to places "famous" for their food. Over the years, I've come to the conclusion that many of these places are tourist traps with long lines and inflated prices. Plus, I absolutely HATE to stand in line to give someone my money. Like, I HATE IT. But, since it wasn't peak lunchtime, the line was short when I got there, so in I went.

Y'all. I hate being wrong even more than I hate standing in line. And maybe I should have been standing in line a little more all of these years. Because the brisket at this place was off the chain. So tender. A nice, dark smoke ring. Even the sides were good. (I got a heavenly mac and cheese, and then some green beans so I could pretend at virtue.) The sauces were next-level and had round, deep flavors. Oh, I would go back here in a minute!!

Oh, Terry Black's! How I miss you!
After lunch, I pedaled back to my hotel, where I enjoyed a well-deserved break. I stayed close to the hotel that night.

Day 3

On my last day in Austin, I breakfasted at the hotel and then caught an Uber to Mount Bonnell. This gentle peak near the Colorado River offers pretty views of the water, surrounding neighborhoods, and the Austin skyline. I'd call it a walk much more than a hike, though you should wear sturdy shoes. You can either walk up a short trail or a long-ish staircase to get to the summit, where you'll find some covered areas and plenty of lookout points for taking in the vistas. It was a clear, sunny day, and I spent about an hour exploring before heading back down.

Bohemian Rhapsody, the biopic about the band Queen, had just opened, and I decided to swing by the Alamo Drafthouse for food and a matinee. I'd heard great things about Alamo Drafthouse, and it didn't disappoint. I sipped a margarita and chowed down on nachos while following the rise of Freddie Mercury's career. (I decided one should always have a drink in hand when watching a movie about a rock star. So appropriate.) The movie was great, the food was great, and I loved the concept. We're supposed to be getting a similar development near where I live, and I can't wait for it to open!

Beautiful views from atop Mount Bonnell
After the movie, I hopped on another bike and rode it down to the South Congress shopping area. So many cute little shops, restaurants, and food trucks down here! I did some shopping, stopped for a drink, and enjoyed the afternoon, catching a car back to the hotel with my purchases.

After being around so many hipsters in South Congress that afternoon (such tight clothes! and the men's hairstyles!), I was really looking for something old-school for dinner. I found it at The Carillion. Quiet, traditional atmosphere, delicious food, and not a man bun in sight. I sank gratefully into a booth and ordered the pre fixe menu, featuring a wedge salad, a fantastic steak, and a decadent chocolate concoction for dessert. With a glass of red and a cup of decaf, I was all set. Prices are a little spendy here, but service was perfect and I got exactly what I was looking for. Recommended.

The next morning, I was back in the air. I thought Austin was a great city! A really good mix of development and green space, with a young, energetic feel. I'll be back!

Monday, December 17, 2018

A Fright to Remember!

Happy ghouls!
This year for Halloween, little man decided that instead of trick or treating, he wanted to put on spooky costumes and scare other kids in their quest for candy. So, for the first time, we decided to decorate our house to eerie advantage, pose as ghouls, and see what kinds of scares we could cook up at Chez Bradshaw.

I'd never decorated the outside of the house for Halloween much (though the inside is Halloween to the hilt). Typically, I put out mums, pumpkins, and a fall wreath that could last us from September until after Thanksgiving. But THIS year . . .

First, we put up a graveyard in the front yard (those fun styrofoam graves - some of them were sizable!), and then we hung some ghouls from the porch and bushes. We put a black wreath on the door and switched the bulbs in the porch lights from a warm golden to a cold blue.

After that, we got a spooky projection of a glowing skull, which we splattered across the garage door. And lastly, for the show stopper, hubs got another projector and a really cool Halloween DVD to go with it. He hung some transparent cloth up between two trees behind our "graveyard" and threw that projection (which was skeletons digging out of their own graves) up onto the cloth. Then, we draped everything liberally with spiderwebs.

It look soooo good!

Our spooky trio . . . 
For costumes, I dressed as a floaty ghost, and I held a glowing bowl full of candy. Hubs dressed quite convincingly as the Grim Reaper, and Clay was a small ghoul. When Halloween came, we rushed home, wolfed down some chili that had been bubbling in the crock pot, and set the scene. (My dad was able to come over and spend Halloween with us this year. I was really glad he was there, because trick or treaters started arriving before we were ready! He handed candy out to our earliest guests and kept us company throughout the night.)

As darkness fell, kids were out in full force, and our spooky house was a huge hit! Everyone loved the projections and our costumes (though a couple of the smaller kids made their moms come and get their candy from me), and Clay jump scared one poor little Rubix cube so much that he dropped his Reese's!

All in all, a great night! WHAT will we get up to NEXT year? ;-)

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Re-setting in Tampa

Sleepy little St. Pete Beach
In late October, I was in Tampa, Florida, on business. As I'd never been there before, I decided to spend the weekend in the area for a much-needed re-charge. When I arrived, I checked into the Tampa Marriott Waterside, which was a lovely property with a marina.

Day 1 

As my room wasn't yet ready, I spent a couple of hours strolling the Riverwalk area. It's a beautiful development, with tons of trails, public art installations, and signs explaining the history of Tampa. It runs the length of the water, and you can find museums, shops, cafes, and boat rentals all along the promenade. A smart visitors' development. When I got hungry, I popped in for a bit of dinner at Jackson's Bistro and Sushi Bar, where I enjoyed some excellent crab cakes.

Day 2, 3

For the next couple of days, I spent my time at a conference. It was interesting to hear how other professionals are approaching the same problems, and I loved meeting folks face to face and swapping best practices.

Lovelies at La Casa Del Pane. Sigh.
At the end of two days' events, the conference closed, and I was left to my own devices. I started by having a late lunch at Columbia Cafe, where I chose the original 1905 salad and an order of croquettes. (Delicious, and just the right amount of food. I sat in the open-air part of the restaurant, and my server was helpful and sweet. Prices were reasonable, too!) Then, I checked out of my hotel and got a car to St. Pete Beach. I'd rented an Air BnB there, a small beach cottage, for the weekend.

It was a charming place! A small, sleepy beach town, and my sweet little house was practically waterside. Plus, the owner had left me a bike to ride! (And coffee!!) I spent the rest of the day lolling on the beach. There's something deeply satisfying about walking along the water alone, with nothing to do and nowhere to be. One can be alone with one's thoughts, with oneself. One's mind can unfold in a way that's difficult to achieve in the hectic, social day-to-day.

Chihuly's glass is as fluid as water.
After the sun set, I ducked into Willy's Burgers and Booze for dinner. Though everyone recommends the burger here, I spied boiled shrimp, and that's what I wanted. I bellied up to the bar, and I was served quickly. Food was plentiful, yummy, and cheap! After I ate my fill, I headed back to the cottage for an early night.

Day 4

The next morning, I pedaled my bike about in search of breakfast. I found La Casa Del Pane, a gorgeous Italian bakery/cafe! A dream! They had omelettes, pastries, cappuccinos, everything you could want! I ended up coming back here each morning for breakfast. Only a quick trip on the bike!

Then, because scattered thunderstorms were in the forecast for the day, I caught an Uber to St. Petersburg proper. I had my sights set on the Morean Arts Center - Chihuly Collection. When I arrived, the museum was practically deserted. I paid my admission fee and slipped into a world of shining, undulating color. The collection is impressive, and it's displayed in darkened rooms against black backdrops, lit to glittering advantage.

The chandeliers are massive and yet somehow delicate teardrops, and inventive staging (as with the Sunset installation) begs closer inspection. The film at the end of the permanent collection, which shows glass blowers at work in a theatrical setting, is fascinating.

After I'd enjoyed the exhibits, I crossed the street to see some local glass-blowers at work. I loved watching them create spiraled, colorful threads of glass, which they wound together to create intricate patterns in finished pieces.

The Dali Museum looks as fantastical
as the man it commemorates. 
Then, I walked the charming downtown area a bit. When I got hungry, I stepped into The Mill, a cool local restaurant with an industrial vibe. Big gears were hung on the walls, and the banquette seats were upholstered in denim. I ordered the Club Med Naan, a delicious wrap stuffed with shrimp. Service was quick, food was good, and prices were reasonable here.

Full of yumminess, I walked to my next destination - The Dali Museum. Friends had told me it was world-class, and they were right. The exterior of the structure is as fanciful as the art inside - a swirl of concrete and glass. Once indoors, grab an audio guide and begin your visit in the theatre for a film about Dali and his life. Then, step through the museum chronologically, watching Dali's evolution from a passionate art student trying on the styles of the Old Masters to an undeniable original.

You'll see many iconic Dali works here, from objects to paintings to illustrations. In the museum's virtual reality experience, you get to put on a VR viewer and explore the inside of a Dali painting. Completely immersive, engaging, and surreal. During my visit, the museum also had a collection of photographs of Dali's home and the surrounding area on display, which provided interesting context. And the gift shop is a delight.

A VR experience allowed visitors to step
inside this Dali work. Amazing.
After my exploration of the museum, I ambled back downtown, stopping for an ice cream and some shopping. Then, it was an Uber back to the cottage and an early night!

Day 5

On my last full day in St. Pete Beach, I ate breakfast in my Italian cafe, and then spent the day outside on the water. I walked and walked and walked, dipping my toes in the surf. I was dismayed to find quite a few dead fish on the beach. Most of them were small, and they were spaced 10-15 feet apart, but there were enough to cause me concern.

A little Googling and talking with the locals, and I found out about red tide. It's such a shame. I'd imagine that, between fishing and tourism, a significant portion of Florida's economy relies on healthy oceans. But this year's red tide is apparently one of the worst. It's very disappointing and sad to see, particularly in light of the fact that local leadership seems to have thrown up their hands on this issue.

After a day of tooling around on the beach and the bike, I took a car for dinner at Palm Court Italian Grill, which is located in the TradeWinds resort. After a slightly rocky start (It took me a while to get seated, even though I had a reservation and the restaurant was largely empty.), things started looking up. I ordered a seafood pasta and a glass of wine, both of which were tasty. Service was prompt and friendly, and when I was finished with my dinner, I took one last turn about the beach and fell into bed.

The next morning, it was Italian cafe-Uber-plane-home! I was particularly charmed by the world-class art, lovely downtown St. Petersburg, and the old-school sleepiness of the St. Pete Beach area. I will be keeping my eye on the evolution of red tide, though, as it could come to spoil Florida's main attraction - sugar sands and brilliant blue waters.

Bradshaws Take Boston! (cont.)

Day 5

The Salem Witch Trials Memorial
I had big plans for being in the Boston area shortly before Halloween, and one of them was to spend a day in Salem! We woke early on day 5 and caught an Uber to this Boston suburb. The Halloween season was in full swing there, and we had a great day getting our BOO on!

We started at Count Orlock's Nightmare Gallery, an amazing wax museum dedicated to the horror movie genre. I loved this place so, so much. You can't take any photos inside, but it's a veritable treasure trove of horror's greatest hits: the Phantom of the Opera, WolfMan, Count Dracula, the Creature from the Black Lagoon. As you move through the exhibits, you see more recent characters: Linda Blair from the Exorcist, the creepy clown from It, Michael Myers, Alien/Predator, Freddy Krueger, even a Gremlin or two! And the placards that go with each figure tell the history of the movies, the actors, the characters, and the makeup skills that made them famous.

The replicas are really good, the lighting is appropriately creepy, and it's obvious that someone who absolutely LOVES movies is running this place. All three of us really enjoyed this stop.

Afterwards, we walked around Salem a bit until we found the Salem Witch Trials Memorial. Here, you'll discover cantilevered stone markers for each of the 20 victims of the Salem witch trials. Each stone is engraved with a name. Though the final resting place of these individuals is unknown, this memorial is adjacent to Salem's historic cemetery. It's an incredibly moving memorial, especially if you are a history buff and/or a student of The Crucible. Visitors often leave flowers and other mementos on some of the markers. We even found some notes left by descendants of one of the victims.

Enjoying the garden at the
House of Seven Gables
Afterwards, we explored the historic Old Burying Point cemetery, finding the grave of Justice John Hawthorne, ancestor of author Nathaniel Hawthorne and one of the witch trial judges. (Boo. Hiss.)

By this time, we were jonesing for lunch. We stopped in at Bambolina for some pizza! This place turned out to be a happy surprise! The pizza was fantastic, and we had the sweetest/most attentive server! Clay made art with the supplies they provided at the table, and we had a great time eating lunch next to a sunny window.

For a sweet treat afterwards, we stopped by Ye Olde Pepper Candy Company, said to be where the first commercially made candies in America were produced. We purchased a few piece to try, purely in the spirit of quality control. (Heh.)

American author Nathaniel Hawthorne was a Salem resident, and his book The House of Seven Gables is based on an actual house that you can tour. The English major in me couldn't resist! Admission gives you access to a guided tour of the house. Parts of it are historical, and parts of it are the result of later renovations, but the whole thing is fascinating. (We got to walk up a secret staircase to the attic!) Once you're finished touring the house, you can relax in the gardens and also tour Hawthorne's house, which has been relocated to the same site. (The gardens are lovely and front the water. It was refreshing to just sit here a while and cool our heels!)

Quite by accident, we stumbled upon The Lost Museum, a jump-scare haunted house attraction. On a lark, we went inside. What fun! In the first room, Clay got a little scared, but once he realized it was all just a show, he relaxed and enjoyed it. (I also advised him to be on the lookout for good ideas, as we planned some of our own jump scares at our house for Halloween trick-or-treaters this year.) It had been ages since I'd done something like this, and I had forgotten how much fun it can be to be (safely) scared!

Before leaving Salem for the day, we also stopped by their visitors center, which details the maritime history of the area and offers some fun films and activities. We also spent some time in the town green, sprawling on the grass while Clay made the most of the playground. On our way out of town, we took in the sweet downtown with its performance artists and snapped pics with the Bewitched statue.

All in all, a fantastic day!

Day 6

The Titian Room at the Gardner Museum! I love the red!
During our family trips, we spend most of our time together. But, as I am an art fan, and hubs and Clay are decidedly not, I generally sneak off for at least one morning to snoop through a museum or two. So, on day 6, the guys stayed at the apartment for some down time while I did some solo exploring. I started at The Mapparium. A small fee gets you inside this three-story glass globe, which is a wonder of acoustics and colored glass. During the guided visit, multimedia stories are projected on the inside of the globe, with arresting effect. A delightful (and quick) stop!

From there, I set my sights on the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. This place was on my must-list, and I am so glad I got the chance to go! A wealthy art lover, Isabella amassed an impressive art collection, one she chose to showcase by building this incredible museum specifically to house it.

I loved how Isabella arranged her collection.
She herself was involved in the architectural design and in selecting which pieces to display together in which settings. The museum does not feature extensive plaques to interpret or explain the works. Rather, the visitor moves through an immersive art experience designed by the founder herself, taking it all in and drawing unique conclusions.

In addition, Isabella left strict instructions that no pieces were ever to be moved or rearranged. So when the museum suffered a robbery in 1990, works that were stolen could not be replaced with other paintings. Today, the spaces on the wall where these priceless paintings used to hang are represented by empty frames. A moving comment on what is not there.

The interior courtyard is a thing of beauty, and the whole museum feels so personal, like a big, lovely house to which one has been invited as a guest. I loved, loved, loved it.

After a day of art tromping, I was hungry! I met back up with the boys at Gaslight, a French brasserie, for an amazing dinner. After wine, mussels, fries, and dessert, it was back to the apartment for bed!

Day 7

Touring the Samuel Adams Brewery
On our last full day in Boston, we slept in and got a late breakfast. Then, we ventured out for a tour of the Samuel Adams Brewery. The tour is free, and guides take you first to an area where you can smell and touch hops, barley, and some of the other ingredients they use to make beer. Then, you go to the big, open room where the beer is actually being brewed. The tour ends in the tasting room, where you get to try 3 or 4 different beers. Some of the beers offered in the tasting room are in R&D, so they aren't available for commercial purchase yet. (And they have root beer for the smaller set! Clay loved sipping his IBC from a glass bottle!)

This was a really fun stop, and I could tell that hubs particularly enjoyed it!

After our tour of the brewery, it was off to another Boston landmark - Fenway Park! Now, I don't care a thing about baseball, but I thought it was something Clay and hubs would really like. We got there early and checked in. The tour starts at the memorabilia shop, and from there, you cross into the park itself. Guides take you through the stands to some of the oldest seats in the park, and then you get to go up to the top of the Big Green Monster! After swinging back around to see the one red stadium seat in the park (the place where the furthest hit in the park's history landed), you end in the little museum on the ground floor, where you can see baseballs signed by some of the greats and look at cool photos and sporting artifacts.

Fenway Park!
What I loved about this tour was the guide. He told so many funny stories and relished explaining the history of both the park and the Red Sox to us! He had the whole group laughing! We also got to see some of the players practicing on the field before we left, which was neat.

We stopped at the nearby Beerworks for lunch, chowing down on yummy burgers and fries. Then, we hopped an Uber to Cambridge, where we ambled around the Harvard campus and Cambridge Common. We snooped through Longfellow House and its adjacent park before strolling the banks of the Charles River, where we saw tons of rowers getting ready for the annual regatta.

Tuckered out by this time, we hopped a car back to the apartment, where we packed up! The next morning, it was back home! I really enjoyed our visit to Boston. We learned so much, saw so much, and ate so much! What a great city!!

Rowing on the Charles River

Bradshaws Take Boston! (cont.)

Day 3

Sipping tea in Boston . . . 
We started the morning by picking up breakfast at South End Buttery, which was a couple of blocks from our apartment. They had baked goods, little quiches, avocado toast, and other deliciousness, and we returned there for breakfast a few times during our stay in Boston.

With the tank filled, it was off to Old South Meeting House. This building was both a church and a place for town hall gatherings. Just before the Boston Tea Party, roughly 5,000 people packed into this small space to hash out a peaceful response to the Crown's continuing insistence to tax colonists with no Parliamentary representation. For a small entrance fee, you gain access to the inside, where they have cool exhibits and an interactive audio app that takes you through the experience.

Afterwards, we started our march down towards the harbor, just as the patriots would have done on the fateful night of the Boston Tea Party. When we got there, we started with lunch at Abigail's Tea Room. In this charming waterside cafe, we sampled the five historic teas the colonists threw overboard during the Boston Tea Party. (Some of them were quite good!) We also had our fill of scones, soup, and sandwiches. (Birthing a nation is hungry work!)
I loved the hokey role-playing at the Boston
Tea Party Ships and Museum!

Sated, it was time to visit the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum, which was one of our favorite attractions of the trip! The interactive, theatrical experience takes you inside the Boston Tea Party. You're given a colonist's identity, and costumed interpreters take you through a reenactment of the Old South Meeting House gathering, onto the ship (where you throw "tea" overboard), and onto the docks. The whole time, you're learning about what motivated the colonists and the delicate balance they were trying to strike. Then, it's inside for exhibits (including one of the original tea chests from that night) and some films.

We all really loved this place. The interaction, the way they make history come alive, the tea room itself. A great, immersive way to learn. So much fun!

We'd originally planned to stroll the Rose Kennedy Greenway afterwards, but the weather was chilly, and the wind was picking up. Instead, we decided to check out Faneuil Hall, and the touristy marketplace. The hall itself was absolutely wonderful (not necessarily the shops on the lower floor, but the meeting space above). What completely made it was the National Park Service guide who gave the free group tour. He was so passionate and well-spoken, and he had such obvious love for the history of the building, Boston, and our country, that our group gave him a standing ovation. Just brilliant. I don't know what we're paying these NPS folks, but it isn't enough.

I don't know what we pay National Park Service
employees, but it's not enough.
After such rousing commentary, off we went to check out the marketplace there and at Quincy. We stumbled across a truly talented escape artist, then did some souvenir shopping. So many fun little items! We ended our day here by picking up dinner to go. Some grilled meats and veggies, some pizza, some sweets. We took it all back to the apartment and tucked in there, then put our feet up!

Day 4

After a quick breakfast at the apartment, we set our sights on the Paul Revere House. The figure of Revere looms large in Boston. You see his silver work and hear his name everywhere. So we decided to go to the source and see where he lived. After buying a (pretty cheap) ticket, you can snoop through this property, which is the oldest building in downtown Boston. This is the small wooden home Revere left on the evening of his midnight ride.

You can also see some of his personal possessions and some of the items he made at the Revere House. It's a quick, informative stop, and I recommend it.

Revere statue and Old North Church steeple
Afterwards, the plan was to walk through the green space where the Revere statue is situated to get to Old North Church. Unfortunately, this little park was under complete renovation during our visit. (Think dirt work and heavy machinery. The whole park was roped off.) So though we got a glimpse of the Revere statue, we had to content ourselves with routing around it.

Our next stop was Old North Church, a location I found particularly meaningful. This is the church where signal lights were hung the night of Revere's ride to give colonists a clue about the movements of British troops. We toured the church (I sat in the Revere pew, of course.), took in the courtyard and grounds, and visited Captain Jackson's Historic Chocolate Shop. In the chocolate shop, we tasted samples and had a lovely interaction with an interpreter dressed as Longfellow's son. He discussed Longfellow's "Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" poem and Longfellow's life as a Boston poet and scholar.

Cannons at the U.S.S. Constitution
By this time, we were ready for some lunch. We pointed our feet to the water for some seafood. (Along the way, we stopped at a really nice open-air park where there was a veterans memorial. It was lovely and peaceful, and we spent some time relaxing on the stone benches there and looking up at the sky through the leaves.)

We eventually ended up at Pier 6. I had a HUGE, delicious butter lobster roll as we dined outside, in the sunshine and sea air. The lobster roll was pricey, but I think there was a whole lobster's worth of meat in there. And I was delighted by the butter. No mayo or anything like that. Just wonderful melted butter. I'd never had a lobster roll like that before, and now I am most definitely a convert!) Beautiful food in a beautiful place.

We conquered the Bunker Hill Monument
Now nice and full, we headed for the U.S.S. Constitution, also known as "Old Ironsides." The ship is America's oldest commissioned warship still afloat, and it's managed by the navy. Entry is free, and visitors start their tour in the interpretive center. There, you can learn all about the naval history of the area. (Some of the cables and ropes and chains are massive. Really cool to see up close and learn how they are made!)

From there, you board the ship itself. Hubs and little man loved the cannons and the hammocks below deck. The rigging was also fascinating to try and follow close at hand. Once you're onboard, you practically have the run of the ship, though you do need to coordinate with other visitors to move on the ladders between decks. We spent nearly an hour poking around, then disembarked.

Next up was an attraction that was really close by - the Bunker Hill Monument. There are 294 steps up to the top of this 221-foot tall granite obelisk, and we were determined to climb every one of them! There's a visitors desk and some public restrooms at the bottom of the monument, but no water, so come prepared with a bottle of your own. Once we checked in, we were off, and we made it to the top in no time!

Cannoli from Modern Pastry was EARNED!
If the day is busy, it can get crowded at the summit, as there's very little room to maneuver up there. We took in the views from all sides, patted ourselves on the back, and then started the journey back down. Once we were back on the ground, we lolled in the surrounding park a bit, as it was a beautiful afternoon. The sun was beginning to set, and the shadows were long, even on the hill. We laid on the grass and listened to the birds.

But hunger will strike, as it tends to do. We were close to all the lovely Italian food in the North End, so we trotted by Bricco for an incandescent dinner.

Oh, my. The food here was so veryvery good. Clay and I had amazing pasta that they make in-house, and hubs had a fantastic steak. Glasses of wine and impeccable service made the whole experience that much more enjoyable. When we were finished, we decided that instead of getting dessert there, we'd stop by a bakery and pick up some cannolis to take back to the apartment. A quick visit to Modern Pastry, and we had a box full, which we consumed with relish later that evening.

We slept like logs this night! So much running around will wear a little family out!!

More to come . . .

Bradshaws Take Boston!

For the past year or two, little man has spent a lot of time at school learning about American history. I'm an enthusiastic supporter of such efforts, hence our trip to Williamsburg in June. In the fall, I thought a nice next step in our tour might be Boston, home of the famed tea party and Paul Revere's midnight ride. Off we went!

Day 1 

Sargent murals at the Boston Public Library
We arrived late in the day and checked into our lovely AirBnB on Ringgold Street. On family trips, we've really enjoyed considering some of the options that AirBnB offers. Though sometimes we still book a traditional hotel or suite, it's wonderful to also evaluate lodging in a real neighborhood, with more space to spread out. Our basement apartment in Boston had one bath, one roomy bedroom, a generous living room with a fold-out couch for my son, a laundry room, and a full kitchen. And we loved the area around it - tons of little cafes and shops, and right across from a neighborhood park! 

It was a beautiful afternoon, so we decided to take a stroll. After being cooped up in planes and airports, it felt good to stretch our legs toward Copley Square and Trinity Church. Though we were too late for a formal tour, we enjoyed taking in the church's architecture and grounds.

Clay found the statues of the tortoise and the hare, which commemorate the fact that the Boston Marathon ends at this square each year. We also searched for (and discovered!) the Khalil Gibran plaque. Gibran, a Lebanese poet/philosopher/painter, educated himself at the Boston Library, which also sits on Copley Square. His quote there reads, "It was in my heart to help a little, because I was helped much." The plaque was erected when Gibran left a generous bequest to the library. (Plus, two Lebanese folks in the big city! Woo hoo!) 

Afterwards, we explored the Boston Public Library, which contains some gorgeous art and reminded me of both the NY Public Library and the Chicago Cultural Center (formerly a library). Beautiful mosaics, colorful murals, interior courtyards (We saw a wedding party!), and wood-paneled rooms make for an inviting place to learn! (The Sargent murals alone took the artist nearly 30 years to complete. The bright panels are perched airily at the very top of the building.)

Views from the Prudential Center Observatory
Visiting historic public buildings like this also always makes me wonder what we are leaving behind. What are we building today that will stand the test of time and cause future generations to marvel? An interesting thing to ponder. 

To finish up our first afternoon in the city, we walked to the Prudential Center Skywalk and Observatory. Often when I'm visiting a new city, I find one of these "high-point" attractions early in the trip and take it all in from above. It's an arresting perspective to start with, and I usually find that it helps me orient myself on the ground later in the visit. 

The views were amazing, and so were the exhibits on display. Many of them were interactive, and Clay and I enjoyed serving as game show contestants and getting quizzed on American history. I also really loved how the exhibits emphasized that the American story is an immigrant story. You could use interactive touch-screens to meet Bostonians who are immigrants from nearly every country on the globe! 

By this time, we were hungry for dinner. We were in the Prudential Center, and we'd heard great things about Eataly, an Italian food hall and market. In we went. 

It was so much fun! We sampled this and that from all sorts of vendors - bruschetta, wines, small slices of pizza - before settling into a table in the back for grilled meats and vegetables. I love eating this way - little bites of lots of different things. Plus, before we left, we loaded up on groceries for the apartment - breakfast breads, milk, etc. 

Then, we headed home, unpacked everything, and sank blissfully into bed.

Day 2

Boston Public Garden offers peaceful vistas.
The forecast was pleasant, so we opted to spend most of the day outside. After a quick breakfast at the apartment, we walked to the Boston Public Garden. So picturesque! The first public botanical garden in the United States, the green space features lovely statuary (George Washington astride his horse is very impressive, and children seem to love playing on the Make Way for Duckings statues!), carefully designed plantings, and a beautiful lagoon. Though we were too late in the year for the swan boats to be running, plenty of real swans and ducks glided about the water. We sat on different benches to take in the view from different perspectives, and we also walked across what's said to be one of the shortest suspension bridges in the world!  

Then, we headed across the street to Boston Common, with its wide-open spaces, gazebos, and lovely views of the golden-domed state house. (At one corner of Boston Common, you can also see Park Street Church, which is said to have one of the prettiest steeples in all of New England.)

Since we were so close, we decided to step over to the Granary Burying Ground. In this historic cemetery, you can find the graves of Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, John Hancock, and other people critical to early American history. Though entrance into the cemetery is free, I recommend either bringing some sort of self-guided tour with you or taking a formal tour so that you'll know where to go and what to look for.
Boston Common

By this time of day, all of the tourists were out in full force, and the cemetery was a bit crowded for my taste. We spent about an hour here, and then decamped for lunch.

Luckily, we were very close to a great place to eat! We slipped into Parker's Restaurant in the nearby Omni Hotel. According to legend, both Parker House rolls and Boston Cream Pie were invented at this restaurant, and we intended to try them. Hubs ordered a giant lobster roll, Clay got a sandwich, and I had clam chowder. We also ordered a basket of rolls and, of course, Boston Cream Pie for dessert. The food was delicious, and our service was lovely. Prices are a touch spendy, but not more than you'd expect. We loved this place!

Bellies full, we popped outside and saw that clouds had begun to threaten. Nonplussed, off we went to an indoor attraction - the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. After getting our tickets, we explored the waterfront space. They have JFK's boat on display, and there are well-maintained trails for walking and running along the water. Then, we went inside, saw the introductory video, and started poking around. 

We learned so much here! Clay was relieved to learn that JFK was something of a mischievous little boy who got into scrapes frequently. Their displays of campaign materials were really interesting, and  the Jackie items were glittery and mesmerizing. This is a do-not-miss stop!

After touring the complex, we were ready for a break! We caught an Uber back to the apartment and cooled our heels for a bit before popping out later that evening for dinner at The Gallows, a restaurant near our apartment. I had the rabbit popover (because seriously, how many times can you really order something like that out?), and it was AMAZING! Delicious, filling, inventive, and perfect for chilly fall night. Hubs and Clay both had burgers. 

Then, it was back to the apartment for a well-earned night's sleep. 

More to come . . . 

Sunday, September 23, 2018

The Cutest Babies in the World (cont.)

Rockaway Beach
Day 4

On day 4 of my visit to Oregon, we spent the day at the beach! We made breakfast, and after eating, we headed down to the water.

Owen used the beach toys helpfully provided by the cottage owners to "collect sand," we met and played with other families on the beach, and we enjoyed sipping wine and snacking on the cheese plates we fashioned from our purchases on the drive down.

For those who have never been to a beach in the Pacific Northwest, it's important to consider that it's likely not the beach you're used to. The Gulf of Mexico beaches we grew up going to are hot, with blue-green waters, a beating sun, and the need for umbrellas. In the Pacific Northwest, you'll find COAST. It's often chilly, windy, cloudy/rainy, with rocky beaches. It feels wilder, like you are out in nature rather than navigating a tourist area.

I love it.

We watched movies in the cottage (I mean, they had The Incredibles. Say no more, as far as Owen was concerned!), cooked dinner, and had a lovely, relaxing day.

Day 5

Though the day started a bit cloudy, the haze burned off soon enough, and we were treated to deep blue views. Owen and I hit the beach again that morning while Grace tended to Maggie.

About mid-morning, we decided to drive to Cannon Beach, where Grace used to live and work. We started at the Cannon Beach History Center and Museum. This facility was Grace's former employer, so we had a chance to meet some of her colleagues in addition to browsing the excellent collections. We got Maggie fed and changed, and everyone took time to fuss and coo over her! She obliged by being adorable, and then we explored the exhibits about the area's history and natural resources.

After our trip to the museum, it was a quick walk to downtown Cannon Beach. We stopped to swing through a farmer's market, then made our way to Bill's Tavern and Brewhouse for lunch. We had seafood and other yummies in a casual atmosphere, then checked out a downtown toy store and candy emporium.

Then, we walked down to the beach! When you arrive waterside at Cannon Beach, Haystack Rock dominates the skyline. It is HUGE! Much like any large monument, it looks closer than it is. We walked all the way down the beach to get to it, marveling at its hulking permanence. At the base, you can even go tide pooling! We had such fun in the wind and the surf, and our photos and videos of the sea spray being wrapped around Haystack Rock by the wind were amazing!

Haystack Rock is incredible. 

After enjoying the sun and sand a bit, we headed back to the car for a quiet night and dinner in at the beach cottage.

Day 6

We awoke this morning, breakfasted, packed up, and made the drive back home. On this trip, Maggie slept blissfully in the car seat, so we were able to make excellent time.  When we made it back, we unpacked and relaxed a bit at the house, shaking sand out of . . . everything!

How can I be far away from
this sweet face? HOW?
That afternoon, I took Owen to the community pool for a swim. The pool is walkable from their house, and it wasn't too crowded! We splashed, met some of Grace's neighbors, and enjoyed some of the free pool toys that the community makes available in the poolside bins.

That night, we all drove to the farmer's market that takes place in Grace's neighborhood once a week. This was so fun! They have live music, tons of vendors (fruit, veggies, etc.), plus food you can buy and eat right there (caramel corn, brick oven pizza, a wine and beer tent, son-cones, etc.).

We had a blast! We got drinks, listened to the music, and ate nibbles at each booth. We shared a big, delicious pizza, and I got Owen a sno-cone. Then, Ryan and Owen went to an event on Mount Hood while Grace and I cuddled little Maggie for the evening.

Day 7

This day was pack-car-airport-plane-home. I hated to leave. I absolutely hated it. Hated to leave my sister, my nephew, and my sweet new niece. I may have cried a little.

Since returning home, I've demanded regular photo and video updates, and I've sent new little outfits (and stylish hats, if I do say so myself) northward. It is absolutely unfair that the cutest babies in the world are so far from me.

I am counting the minutes until Christmas, when I see my sweet loves again!

The Cutest Babies in the World

Sweet Owen with Mr. Bun at
secret breakfast
Earlier this year, I became an aunt again! My younger sister Grace gave birth to her second child - a girl! Baby Maggie is the first girl child that any of the three of we sisters have had. As you can imagine, the pent-up demand for ruffles, pink, and lace among the aunt and grandparent contingent is strong.

When sweet baby Maggie was about two months old, I took a trip to the Pacific Northwest to hold her, snuggle her, and help my sister. Here's the skinny:

Day 1

I flew into Portland, Oregon, and caught a quick Uber out to my sister's new house. She lives in a beautiful, new planned community in the city suburbs. I swept in and was able to love small people (both the new baby and her older brother, Owen) almost immediately. Oh, y'all. It's easy to forget how tiny new babies are, with their open faces, itty bitty fingers, and almost non-existent toenails. So small, so soft, and so, so precious. I also got to hear all about how life was going for Owen, who was glad to have another grown up to talk to! Heh.

Because Jesus loves me, Clayton, one of our mutual friends from our growing up years, was also in town for one more night! So, myself, Grace, and Clayton decided we'd go out to dinner that night. We made our way to Clyde Common for a night of deliciousness. We started with the charcuterie board and moved on to wine, entrees, and other general wonderfulness. Clayton is an absolute hoot, and I loved spending time with he and Grace. There is something special about friendships with the people who knew you when you were young that is impossible to replicate with relationships you build later in life. There's such history and ease. We cackled like hens!

By the time our tasting at Apolloni Vineyards
was complete, Maggie was asleep!
Price points for this restaurant are not cheap, but they are worth every penny. Cocktails are inventive, and waitstaff is friendly, knowledgeable, and prompt. Highly recommended. We had a magical evening here.

After dinner, we walked about a bit, even visiting a rooftop bar briefly to take in views. Then, as she was thoroughly tired after a day of baby-wrangling, we took my sister home. I got to sleep with a cute, cuddly 4-year-old that night, and he is the BEST snuggler!

Day 2

The next morning, Owen and I sneaked out of the house early to hit the grocery store and get brunch supplies. (We may have also purchased some dinosaur toys.) We came back to the house with tons of goodies and set to work, making slow-cooked eggs, roasted asparagus, a gorgeous fruit salad, strawberry butter, thick slices of toast, and lots of strong coffee.

When the house woke up a little later, we presented the fruits of our labors to a grateful audience. After soaking up the relaxation of it all for a bit, Owen and I decided to take a walk to the park. The neighborhood my sister lives in is so smartly planned. There are parks, a community pool, plenty of green spaces, and even schools, all within walking distance. It's so convenient, and the neighborhood is meticulously maintained.

Later that day, we bid adieu to sweet Clayton (Sob!), and I got down to helping out with the very small person who had recently made her debut. In all honesty, I'd forgotten a little about how to soothe a screaming newborn. You'd be surprised how quickly it all comes back, though! Swaddling, pacifiers, lots of bouncing and shushing and smooches. This early in her development, she could absolutely not abide the swing. She wanted to be held and fussed over, which I was only too happy to do! Diaper changes, the occasional bottle (as we were focused on breast feeding), but mostly just sweet love! I'd take her outside to the porch so she could see the trees, grass, and blue sky. I sang songs and kissed the top of her itty bitty head. Absolute heaven.

Grace and Owen couldn't resist the photo ops
at Blue Heron French Cheese Company!

We had a quiet dinner in that night.

Day 3

One of the problems Grace was sometimes having was that Owen woke early and was raring to go each day, often waking up both she and Maggie when they were still peacefully sleeping after a long night. On day 3, Owen and I circumvented this issue with secret breakfast. When my son Clay was little, we used to do the same thing. Hubs would want to sleep in on the weekends, but small people can be rather loud and excited when they wake up. So I would get Clay in the car and let him pick the place we'd go for a leisurely "secret breakfast" from dad.

Owen loved the idea, and off we went for secret breakfast at Biscuits Cafe. (We even brought Mr. Bun, his stuffed rabbit, who certainly did NOT want to be excluded from the fun.) He proceeded to charm every waitress in the restaurant and eat tons of pancakes and syrup. When we got close to leaving, we ordered Grace some biscuits and gravy to go, so she could have a lovely breakfast when she awoke, as well.

When Grace heard I was coming to town to visit, she saw it as an opportunity (with a third adult) to get out of the house more. I enthusiastically agreed, and we'd decided to spend a couple of nights at Rockaway Beach during my visit. We headed out on day 3, after we'd had a chance to get everyone breakfasted and ready to go.

We learned quickly that Maggie hated her car seat. Wisely, however, we'd anticipated such, so we'd identified a couple of places to pull over and take a break from the car during our trip. Our first stop was Apolloni Vineyards, which the internet had deemed "family friendly." We got Maggie changed and fed while Owen played with the toys in the family area that the vineyard had so thoughtfully provided. Then, while Maggie stretched out a bit, we enjoyed a wine tasting accompanied by purchased snacks (a cheese and fruit board, followed by gourmet chocolates - even Owen was impressed). We chatted with the staff and other guests, enjoyed our wine and nibbles, and just took a quick break from the road. Before leaving, we purchased a bottle or two of wine for the beach.

Our stretch of beach in Rockaway! The beach house we rented had great views!

Once Maggie was again snoozing peacefully, we got back in the car. We began driving through dairy country - wide fields of green, dotted by happy cows munching on grass. We made it another good leg of the trip before she made it known she was ready for another break. This time, we pulled over at  Blue Heron French Cheese Company in Tillamook. (We briefly considered the Tillamook Creamery, but we reconsidered when we saw the crowds there! Eeeek!)

Blue Heron ended up being perfect for us. After getting Maggie situated again, we enjoyed a cheese tasting and browsed the shop (more nibbles for the beach). Then, we sampled some of the ice cream they make on site (a favorite of Owen) and spent some time at the fun photo-ops outside. They had tractors, cut-outs, etc. After this quick break, it was back on the road.

This time, we made it all the way to our beach cottage before Maggie started getting cranky. We were able to unpack and get settled. We had a 3-bedroom that fronted the beach, and the views from the family room's glass doors were fantastic!

A bit later, Ryan (Grace's husband) arrived, and he and Grace made a quick trip out to the grocery store. We had a lovely dinner in that night.

More to come . . .

Saturday, September 22, 2018

ALL the books!

I've been reading quite a bit lately, and I thought I'd share a few three-sentence reviews on some of my favorites!

1.) Commonwealth by Ann Patchett. I've loved Patchett ever since being dumbfounded by Bel Canto years ago. This book spans decades and tells the story of two families whose lives messily intertwine. Characters are so strong and real.

2.) The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close. The voice of Beth, the narrator of this novel, is so clear and sympathetic in this book. I loved how she described and reacted to the detailed ecosystem of young, ambitious, would-be politicians she observed. I also liked how complex the core relationships were here - not just between characters, but within characters. (P.S. I later read Close's Girls in White Dresses, but didn't like it as well as this book.) 

3.) Dispatches from Pluto by Richard Grant. This hilarious book about the Mississippi Delta is so spot-on that it should be criminal. I laughed out loud multiple times, and some of the descriptions have had enough staying power to remain with me months later. This book got me through a very difficult time.

4.) Big Little Lies, The Hypnotist's Love Story, and Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty. I'm late to the Moriarty party, and I'm so sorry!! I loved all of these books, but I loved Big Little Lies the most. I'm now a confirmed Moriarty fan!

5.) Wintering by Peter Geye. I found this novel via my library's free-checkout app, and I'm glad I did. It tells the story of a family and their relationships against the backdrop of the Minnesota winter. Appreciation for your ancestors/history, respect for the brutality of nature, and acceptance of the things you cannot change are all powerful themes.

6.) The Gardner Heist by Ulrich Boser. I have a trip to Boston coming up, so I read this book in anticipation of visiting the Isabella Gardner Museum. What a page-turner! I loved the caper of this real-life mystery, and I hope the art is one day recovered.

7.) Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah. I suffered emotional trauma at the hands of this book. I loved these characters, I was infuriated by them, but most of all, I understood them. This book felt true. 

8.) 41: A Portrait of My Father by George W. Bush. I'd been meaning to read this book for ages, particularly since we visited the George W. Bush Presidential Library last fall. It was a love letter from son to father, a touching tribute with an incredibly unique perspective. I walked away with a better understanding of what drove Bush Sr. 

9.) Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. Five years after its debut, I revisited what has become a classic for women working outside the home. While parts of it have not aged well, there is still much food for thought here. And as our national conversation around gender equality and gender politics evolves, it's interesting to look back periodically - recognizing how far we've come and how far we've yet to go. 

Farther afield

Beautiful architectural details at the Saenger
As per usual, I've been trotting hither and yon a bit lately on business. A few things I've been up to while there that I thought worth sharing:

1.) I hadn't been to see a show at the Saenger Theatre in New Orleans in AGES. I made my way there to see the touring production of Waitress, and I loved it! Not only was the show bright, smart, and fun, the space was sumptuous. It was so good to be there again!

2.) A new place that I love for quick bites has opened up in New Orleans, too - Pythian Market Food Hall. Tons of great vendors, lots of variety, reasonable prices, and interesting people. You can't go wrong here!

3.) I had the occasion to be in West Monroe, Louisiana, recently, looking for things to do. A quick internet search revealed Landry Vineyards. On a whim, I popped over there for a quick tasting. It was a great experience! The wines are delicious, and if you purchase a bottle, the tasting is free! The grounds are beautiful as well! I came home with two bottles, plus some wine jam. (I am not even playing around with that stuff, people.) Recommended.

4.) I was in Little Rock on business, and I noticed a new storefront - Rock Town Distillery. You can pop in for a tour or a tasting. I found a low-proof peach moonshine here that was perfect as a summer drink mixer. (Toss a glug of it into a glass of lemonade, throw in some sliced strawberries, and serve with cheese straws. Can't get any more Southern than that!)

She works hard for the money . . .

Earlier this year, hubs and I embarked on a remodel of our home office. What began as an idea to construct a wall of built-ins turned into a complete re-do of our third bedroom. We yanked carpet (and y'all, it's GROSS under there), cleaned up, painted walls and trim, updated the light fixture, installed new carpet, and had a wall of custom cabinets built.

We topped it off with new furniture, and I bought a centerpiece painting by a local artist. I'm thrilled by how it turned out, and I love working in this space!

This couch folds out into a double bed if we need it. And I love the art piece!

Ta daaaa!! This is our built-in shelving, desk, and lower cabinets.