Beautiful Krakow

Having now been there three times, I’m going to say there’s not a bad time to visit Krakow. In the summer, the outdoor cafes of the Rynek Glowy, or market square, are places you can sit for hours. The fall is still pleasant, and a beautiful time to wander the streets, or visit nearby places of historical importance, such as Auschwitz, and the Wieliczka Salt Mine. At the end of November, the Christmas market opens in the main square.

Rynek Glowny
Oscypek, or smoked sheep cheese

That large main square, the largest in Europe, also has one of the oldest markets, referred to as cloth market, where vendors still today sell their wares in the market stalls. In the square, ask for the Oscypek, which is a smoked sheep cheese often served with a little cranberry. And then ask my daughter and spouse about their mishap of ordering “grilled cheese” and it coming with no bread. 😉

Entrance to main train station
Park surrounding Old Town

Much of Krakow was not destroyed by the World War II, so there were many buildings of historical value to see. The old city is surrounded by city walls, and a park was built in the 19th century surrounding the city walls, giving the city a Parisian feel.

globe displaying Americas
Jagielonian library

In 1364 one of Europe’s first universities, Jagiellonian University, was established in Krakow, and a famous student is Copernicus. You will want to visit the old library, because in it is this building where the first globe which ever mentions the Americas is on display, as well as replicas of some of Copernicus’ tools. Another famous student? Karol Wojtyla, otherwise known as Pope John Paul II.

view from Wawel Castle
Wawel Castle

Wawel (Vah-vel) Castle is a highlight, and has magnificent views.  My first impression is that there are so many layers of architecture style to it.  The state rooms are most impressive, yet it’s almost just as fun to wonder the gardens in the summer, and take in the scenic overlook of the city.

Plac Nowy
zapiekankas

After a walk down the hill, we then made a visit to Kazimierz, an area of Krakow which used to be its own independent city. Stop at the Plac Nowy, and try the zapiekanka, which looks like a fresh baked French bread pizza with a variety of toppings.  Kazimierz was home to a large Jewish population dating way back to the 13th century, as the current leaders of the time, including King Casimir III (for whom the city is named) was tolerant of freedom of worship.  It developed into a thriving cultural center, and stayed that way for hundreds of years.  The oldest synagogue dates back to the 15th century.

Kazimierz, featured in Schindler’s List
Schlinder Factory
captured Jagiellonian Prof. Chrzanowski

Today in Kazimierz, you can find a variety of delicious coffee shops and restaurants, and the old city hall in Plac Wolnica.  You can walk the alley which was featured in the film Schindler’s List nearby.  Unfortunately, like so much of Poland during WW II, the Nazis took over Krakow and its surroundings and used it as a hub, moved nearly all of the Jews first to the Jewish ghetto, then to concentration camps, and devastatingly, hardly any survived in Krakow.  We learned that over 5 million Jews and ethnic Poles were killed during the Holocaust.  This part of history was brought to life by a visit to the Schindler Factory, located just across the River Vistula. Not only detailing the story of Schindler himself, the factory really tells the entire story, from the end of WW I, until the end of WW II, of what was happening in Poland during this period of history.  While it was difficult, I truly believe everyone should visit places like this so that they may understand the atrocities of the Holocaust and World War II, so that history will never repeat itself.  Among many of those first imprisoned were 187 university scholars from Jagiellonian University, whose only crime was being educated, many of whom did not survive.

Lion over doorway
Church of St. Peter & Paul

We ventured back up to toward the Old Town, where we learned that before most people could read and write, pictures instead of words were used to display addresses. Here’s a photo of a lion to depict this. Stop by the Church of St. Peter and Paul for an excellent example of a baroque-style Catholic church, which sometimes houses concert music in the evenings.

Since the holiday season is starting, this writing would not be complete without a mention (and lots of photos!) of the Krakow Christmas market, which opened 26-November. This cute little market had delicious food, treats and gluhwein, many hand made crafts from Poland, as well as a couple stages for entertainment.

Krakow Christmas market
Krakow Christmas market

Krakow is one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited.  The small, cobblestone streets reminded me of Rome, outdoor cafés resemble Paris, and it is a mecca for history lovers.   

Krakow Christmas market
Obwarzanek, similar to a bagel.
woodworker’s booth
Krakow Christmas market

**Disclaimer: As much as I try, I inevitably will get some parts of Polish history incorrect or incomplete. I’ve only just recently moved to Poland, and to my Polish friends I apologize in advance.  I am writing about history as I am learning it, through tour guides and museum visits. Please let me know how I may improve my recount.**

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All Hallows Eve

Halloween was always a celebrated holiday where we lived.  And we began the tradition several years ago of hosting a party during trick or treating in our neighborhood, where kids come by for candy, and adults can come by for food, beverages, treats, etc.  

Being abroad on Halloween has been, well, interesting.  We didn’t make a ton of plans, since we were just returning from our Fall Break the day before.  But I’d say the kids (and me), were missing it a little.  So, what to do when you’re far away from your own cultural experiences?  What I try to do is to create something traditional that reminds us of home. But also, I take this opportunity to learn about what is celebrated here in Poland.

So, once I located some American candy, and helped my youngest find a costume (on Amazon, several weeks ago), we decided to learn about All Saints Day.  Growing up in Catholic schools, I knew the concept; however, it is REALLY celebrated here in Poland: it’s a national holiday. Stores and businesses are closed. Banks are closed. Locals have told me that relatives will spend days traveling back to their home towns and villages, or to the cemetery of loved ones. 

Then, they will decorate the graves with flowers, lights, etc, and spend some time at the cemetery remembering family and loved ones that are no longer with us.  About four weeks ago, I started noticing all these candles in the grocery stores, and I was beginning to wonder why. And the candle selection kept getting bigger, and bigger. And bigger.  Well, now I know.  Warsaw is packed with visitors this long weekend, and November 1 is a holiday.  Take a look at some of these photos.  When I was a kid, a cemetery was SCARY.  Tonight, the cemeteries will be loaded with candles, flowers, and people, remembering their loved ones as they stroll along. 

We managed to have a few trick or treaters, my youngest found some trick or treating with friends, and my daughter and I walked some beautiful lights, and enjoyed a delicious Italian dinner. So while my kids are a bit disappointed they are not in the U.S. this past weekend enjoying our regular traditions, we took a moment to learn about the Polish culture, and walk the cemeteries, and remember our lost loved ones, tell stories, and laugh.  And that is definitely something to celebrate.   

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Royal Wilanow

Well, it’s been a busy few weeks of moving out of corporate housing an into an more permanent apartment.   I could write an entire post on the differences I’ve discovered here versus the U.S.  But today, I want to write about two special items that happened this past week.

Wilanow Palace

I had the wonderful opportunity to join in on a cultural outing, organized by our new school’s PTO, to the Wilanow Palace.  Built by King Jan Sobieski III as his summer palace in the late 1600s, the palace sits in aptly named Royal Wilanow. Wilanow was once its own tiny village and not part of Warsaw, as it is today.  I learned that King Jan was born in an area called Olesko, which used to be Poland, but now sits in present day Ukraine, he was the son of a senator, and was pretty much groomed from the beginning to do great things.  After being educated in Krakow’s Jagiellonian University, he toured Europe with his brother, and learned to speak many languages, among them French, German, Italian and Latin.   He was a great war hero, and we learned that during one battle with Turkish forces, he credits himself as discovering coffee, and bringing it back to Poland.  Thanks, Jan!   He ascended to the thrown of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, as it was known, in year 1674.  A scholar and quite worldly for his time, he called this area “Villa Nova” after the Latin meaning “new house,” and this eventually changed to Wilanow in Polish.  (Remember the “w’s” are all pronounced “v.”) 😉

King Jan Sobieski III
model of the Palace

beautiful Queen Marie

He is said to have met his great love, Marie Casimire, and it was love at first site.  However, she was married, so for 10 years, he waited essentially for her husband to die (since there was no divorce then), and then married her, and wanted to build a beautiful palace for her, and a place to store his treasures.  The palace is perfectly symmetrical, with a men’s side, and women’s side, beginning with reception rooms, and curving around to end with their personal bed chambers next to each other in the center. It reminded me of many palaces I’ve seen in the U.K.

cabinet in Antechamber

One very interesting item to note was this cabinet, located in the King’s antechamber, that was essentially made like a puzzle box, with no handles to open the tiny doors.  There are secret mechanical ways to open it that only Jan knew how to do; so that is where he kept his precious items. 

The king’s library, housing his collection of books, interestingly displayed them below a corresponding author’s name. So, for example, the Plato corner meant that philosophy books were located just under it.  Further, the library has the only original floor in the building, with a unique almost 3D look to it.

  

library-Plato corner
library floor
Queen’s bed chamber

Also interesting, regarding the bed chambers: ever wonder why they are so little?  Was everybody shorter then?  Perhaps.  But the explanation we received is that it was thought to be healthier to sleep sitting up, propped with some pillows, so that is what everybody did in the 17th century.   The palace has the queen’s original bed silk bed coverings.  It is said that Queen Marie was very attached to her bed, and often traveled with it when she and her entourage left the palace.  Between her 17 labors, and being pregnant, and nursing babies, I can see why they said she spent most of her time in bed!  And the corsets…we learned that from probably age 7, girls wore corsets and very rarely took them off, even as they grew, and even later during pregnancy and labor!  No thanks.    

King Jan lived to only his 60s, unfortunately, dying in 1696, and since the monarch at that time was voted on by other nobles, it did not necessarily pass on to his sons, nor was the palace guaranteed to wife Marie. 

In 1720, after the palace had fallen into disrepair, it was purchased by Elzbieta Sieniawska, who added to wings to either side.  And then at the end of the 18th century, Izabela Lubomirska commissioned to have an outdoor kitchen added, as well as a guardhouse to the property, both detached, and an attached bath.  Another extensive renovation in the 19th century was by nobleman and politician Stanislaw Kostka Potocki, who occupied the palace from 1799-1821.  In 1805, Potocki opened a section of the palace as one of the first public museums in Poland.

Like many buildings in Warsaw, it was taken over and ransacked by the Nazis during World War II; however, some of Jan’s antiques were in the basement and discovered later, so survived.  Additionally, most of the stolen items have been returned by Germany, so we can see them today.  After the war, the state took over the buildings, and the palace opened as a museum in 1962.

King Jan’s antiquities

And now on to the really unique part of all this.  A couple of weeks ago, through a friend, we found a boy scout troop for my son.  Well, the Polish equivalent of the U.S. boy scouts. 

Anyway, after attending a few meetings, and seeing it was a good fit, we decide he joins.  Fast forward to this past Sunday, when it is September 26th, and on this day in 1943, a local Polish scout troop named “Zoska” attacked the German military post in Wilanow, literally next door to this palace. Our scout troop had the privilege of participating in the ceremony.

church
ceremony
ceremony
plaque for Sept. 26th
my scout

Since it was conducted entirely in Polish, I cannot tell you exactly what transpired during this ceremony, but suffice it to say there was marching, some kind of flag ceremony with dignitaries, a Mass, and then an official ceremony held on the exact spot of this attack.  There is a permanent plaque commemorating the event as well. 

ceremony

I would highly recommend a visit to Royal Wilanow to see all of this, and a stop at a local place for a bite to eat afterwards in one of the many beautiful restaurants in the area.

restaurant
restaurant
restruarant

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Warsaw: First Impressions

Wilanow
WIlanow

First impressions of Warsaw? BIG.  I’ve lived in big cities before, but Warsaw feels like it goes on and on.  We settle in a smaller area to the south called Wilanow, still in the city, but with a neighborhood feel.  Right away, you definitely feel like you can get to know your neighbors here. 

Our first few days are spent getting to know getting around.  We figure out the city busses. Ubers are very cheap here, but we want to do it like a local.  Which in Warsaw, must also involve scooters.  If you think downtown Indy was littered with Lime and Bird, think again. Warsaw has you beat. In fact, if you use Google Maps as a transportation guide to get you from point A to point B in Warsaw, it will often have you picking up a scooter or bike share for a leg of your route to make a walk to the bus or tram a bit shorter.  The biggest hardship in our transport efforts to date has been our American credit cards.  Even after we had called the companies letting them know of our journey, they cannot successfully buy bus and tram tickets, many things online, and they usually fail in other places as well.  Priority number one will be getting a local bank account, or figuring out this issue.

Royal Castle
Old Town
Old Town
Old Town

Back to Warsaw.  Much of Warsaw was wiped off the map by Hitler during World War II, so much so that lots of it has been rebuilt, and so the architecture is a blend of old and new.  We visit the Old Town first to see the historic area of the city, which dates back to the 13th century.  Look for the mermaid statue, which is a symbol of Warsaw.  Much of the Old Town Square had to be rebuilt after the war based on historical photographs, and artisans spent years on this effort. It was so precisely done, that in 1980 it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  This may make it the only place that has been reconstructed this this extent (85%) on this prestigious list.  Do not miss the Royal Castle, to see The King’s Apartment, The Armament Collection, and various Rembrandts.  The square is lined with shops, restaurants, and cafes, and is a fun place to wander on a weekend.

Vistula River

Take a walk down by the Vistula River and eat at one of the various cafes, have a latte, again take a scooter if you haven’t, or just enjoy people watching on a nice day.   People in Warsaw really enjoy the weather when it’s nice, as I have a feeling it’s going to change and be cold for a while once it does.  There’s plenty of outdoor dining, coffee shops abound (my personal favorite), and so far, the food has been spectacular. 

Armed Forces Day
Armed Forces Day

A couple Sundays ago, we happened to wander into a celebration of the Polish military of sorts.  I later found out it was Poland’s Armed Forces Day.  Lots of streets shut down, and something on the stage.  We missed a morning parade.  I wish I could tell you more; however, since we had only been here two days, we were not prepared.  Maybe next year I can have a better perspective?  Stay tuned!

Palace of Science & Culture
Palace of Science & Culture
Palace of Science & Culture

Another landmark in the center that bears mentioning is the Palace of Science and Culture.  It was originally built for Stalin in 1955, and then later his name was removed and revoked from all places.  It now houses a few theatres, cinemas, a sports club, two museums, bookshops, a swimming pool, an observation deck, a large auditorium, and university facilities.  Standing at nearly 800 feet tall, it’s the 2nd tallest building in Poland and the 6th tallest in the EU, so you really can’t miss it.  At night, the building lights up with LEDs.  Some say its controversial, given its beginning, but others appreciate that it has been repurposed for good, and practically speaking, it’s a good use of space.  I hear there is ice skating in winter, which sounds fun to explore.

All in all, we’ve had a great three weeks, it only took me five hours to buy the wrong train tickets (more on that later), and for the most part, things have gone mostly according to plan, and when they have not, we have rolled with it!

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Our Impending International Move Is Here!

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.

~ William Morris (1834-1896)

If you had asked me six months ago about our current housing situation, I would have told you we need a bigger house.  The garage was a little small.  We didn’t have ample room to store some new items we had purchased: two kayaks, a utility trailer.  We didn’t have a basement.  Our four-person, one dog family was quickly out growing our 2800+ square foot family home in a small suburban midwestern town in the United States.  Fast forward three months, and we learn we are going to be relocating for my spouse’s job for a probable three-year assignment in Warsaw, Poland.  Past the initial excitement for sure, was the anxiety of what were we going to do with the house?  What with all the stuff?  After weighing many options and deciding to clean it out and rent, we decide in late June to begin sorting through all said stuff, and on a quick trip back to see family in our home state of Michigan, I come across an incredibly timely podcast “The Hidden Brain” by Shankar Vadantam, entitled Why We Hold on to Things?  If you’re moving, in a cleaning out phase, or even if you’re not, I’d highly recommend taking a listen.

https://hiddenbrain.org/podcast/why-we-hold-on-to-things/

However, even before listening, I think I had really underestimated this task.  After all, we had only lived in this house just shy of eight years.  Before this, we had lived in five cities in nine years, including another move overseas to London for two years, and time in Chicago in a small townhome for three years.  We regularly pass along our kids’ outgrown clothes to neighbors, charity shops, and other items we are finished with get sent to Goodwill on a regular basis, much from the constant prodding of my husband, and much to my annoyance at times.  So, how had we accumulated so much stuff?  In Vadantam’s most relevant podcast, he interviews psychologist Bruce Hood, author of the book Possessed (Oxford University Press 2019) who reveals there are over fifty thousand storage units in the United States. Fifty Thousand! More than Starbucks.  More than McDonalds!  And this is where the podcast grabs me.  In the middle of my downsizing, where just a few months ago, I was convinced we needed to upsize, why have we collected so many possessions in such a short amount of time?  And what’s important to keep?  What can we shed?

During “The Hidden Brain” podcast, I learn about the psychological attachment we place on things.  I learn our identity gets wrapped up in our possessions so much so that letting go of items can feel like letting go of parts of ourselves.  And this is especially true if a relative, especially a dead relative gifts us an item.  Discarding that item can feel like we are throwing away that relative.

The next week, my spouse and I spend an evening walking around the rooms and take inventory of what we can live with and what we can live without.  And we decided that much of what we have, we were not attached to.  This is good news!  We were OK parting with it.  To be sure, there were some items that are 100 percent in the keep category: Grandma Elaine’s jewelry case, Grandma Gini’s table.  But beyond that, we didn’t have a firm attachment to many of our material possessions.  We are lucky.   We were able to sell or get rid of much of our home goods, and the kids were mostly OK with this idea as well.  We did a giant downsize, decided to move to Poland with mostly suitcases, and will set up a small apartment in country once we would arrive and would be able to see our space.  Once we eventually leave, we will either sell or get rid of much of what we accumulate.  Else, we will be responsible for shipping what we have accumulated. 

Ugly moving photos

I cannot emphasize enough what an enormous task this was.  We spent weeks and weeks and weeks cleaning and sorting things in the house, and each week it looked like very little was done.  There was a pivotal week where my dear sister-in-law, who could be a professional organizer, came to visit for a few days.  And if you have access to a professional organizer, I would highly recommend hiring one, because it will definitely tip the scales in terms of how much you can get done.  It changed how I approached the process, and I was able to get more done in a shorter amount of time moving forward.  Once we finally finished, I vowed to myself never to accumulate so much stuff again.

We are now in Warsaw, staying in two studio apartments next door to each other (approx. 10×20 feet, 20×18 ft.), while we search for a rental apartment.  The apartment will likely be 129 square meters, or 1388 square feet.  It feels really good to live with less stuff.  I am at a point where I can embrace this change and hopefully, model to my kids and family that it is not the stuff, but the experiences we will have together over the next few years that matter the most.    

As of this writing, Karla and her family maintain a small storage space in the U.S., and recently relocated to Poland with several large suitcases.

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My Corona-cation

Our family needed to get away SO badly.  After three long months of serious quarantining with daily walks and lots of outdoor time, the walls were closing in.  When else ever in our lifetimes has the following existed: a work from home requirement, flights effectively grounded (for my traveling husband), and all kids’ sports and extra curricular activities cancelled?  Like it or hate it, this perfect storm meant we could work from anywhere.  So, we made a bold decision.

A little backstory. Back in March once school was virtual and work from home mandated, my husband and I were thinking about going away for the better part of a month; he began designing a driving tour south, through the heart of Civil Rights history, to put a personal experience to the traditional lessons and witness the more subtle insights not covered in text books.  At the last minute, we chickened out.  At the time, little was known about the coronavirus and spread of COVID-19; what if we began our drive, and states closed their borders?  So, we tabled it.  Fast forward to mid-June, states had started to reopen, albeit at different rates, but he was still grounded, and my office is still under a work from home advisory.  Most if not all camps have been cancelled.

So, we packed up the car, the kids and the dog, and headed south down I-65 watching PBS’s “Eyes on the Prize” Civil Rights documentary to prepare us, first passing through Nashville, where we as a family learned some of the first lunch counter sit-ins took place.  I-65 continued through Birmingham, Alabama, and we walked Kelly Ingram Park, where many civil rights clashes happened in the 1960s, all while listening to an audio tour of what transpired there.  For the full audio tour, click HERE. 

 

We saw the 16th Street Baptist Church, Birmingham’s first black church, and where in 1963 a bombing killed four Sunday school students.  I learned, the kids learned, such important parts of history that went beyond the classroom.  We saw the spot where kids where blasted with fire hoses and threatened with police dogs for peacefully assembling.  IMG_4384My kids were astonished; how this could happen?  Earlier in June, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (which was unfortunately closed) bestowed the Fred L. Shuttesworth Human Rights award to Dr. Angela Y. Davis, which she accepted virtually.  Read more about Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth HERE.

Next stop Tuscaloosa, where we stood in the doorway where Governor George Wallace blocked black students Vivian Malone and James Hood from enrolling in the University of Alabama.  We confirmed the location by comparing the building’s façade from the black and white news footage showing Deputy US Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach coming to that spot where Wallace stood. IMG_4390 Katzenbach asked Wallace three times to step aside and then temporarily departed saying “these two students will remain on campus, they will register today, they will go to school tomorrow, and they will go to this university during this summer session.”  Later that day, the national guard was federalized (for the third time in US history to integrate schools) and the students enrolled.  Today just beyond that door stands a plaza honoring those students.

Continuing south we found Selma; which has seen better days.  We parked and walked across the Edmund Pettus bridge.  This was the site of three marches from Selma to Montgomery, in protest of black citizens being denied their right to register to vote.  Did you know, in the early 1960s, there were whole counties in Mississippi who did not have IMG_4401even one black person registered to vote?  I didn’t.  There were arcane voting registration “laws” which kept blacks from voting…that I did know, but often history texts don’t give the full story.  I had learned about the marches, but not much about what led up to them.  Black citizens would sometimes wait hours or all day to be heard at the registration place, only to have one person actually get an application, and then that application would later be denied. So, back to the marches of Selma.  The first march, of approximately 500-600 people, was met by brutality, on March 7, 1965, led by John Lewis and Hosea Williams.  Many left very injured.   And then the second and third marches, a few weeks later, included John Lewis, Dr Martin Luther King Jr, and others, successfully marching to the capital and peacefully assembling to push for the rights of black citizens to register to vote. I’m fielding multiple questions from my kids, among them, how does this happen?  I don’t really have a good answer.  We didn’t live it (my husband and I were born in the 1970s); but we took the opportunity to talk a lot about political culture, climate, and used a lot of documentaries to help.

Following the marcher’s footsteps, we

IMG_4423

drove the 50 mile Selma to Montgomery Historic Trail.  The original march took five days…..we did it in an hour, with air conditioning.  The city of Montgomery provided a great audio tour, mapping out the sites of the downtown area.  We visited most of them, but more importantly, we listened.  We listened to the stories and the history, and among my favorite stops included the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, the birthplace of the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Alabama Department of Archives, which is the oldest archives in America. We saw some peaceful protests, and beautiful murals somewhere between art and graffiti, depending on your definition.

IMG_4388It would definitely be worth it to listen to the audio tour even without being able to visit.  To access the audio tour, click Here.

I-65 continued south to the Florida panhandle and then later north home to Indy.  Sandwiched between we enjoyed several low key days at a gulf beach, with lots more social distancing, working remotely, and eating take out or cooking at home, just with much better scenery.IMG_4463

While the trip made many memories, my hope is that my children have learned so much more about the history of the Civil Rights movement, and other important parts of history, as indeed I have.  There are so many insights that run parallel to the racial challenges we continue to face today.  And I can’t think of anything more American than that.

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What This Election is Teaching our Children

There is a basic amount of decency and respect we all deserve. I learned this from my parents, I learned it from following Jesus, and I learned it from the community in rural Michigan where I grew up. And it goes without saying this election is not bringing out the decent in people. I’ve had to tell my children on more than one occasion that not everything you hear from an adults’ mouth on TV is OK…in fact, much of it is quite rude, self-serving, and downright vicious. In a culture where kids already are not taught much about empathy, this election cycle hits where it hurts. And it’s simply NOT OK. I would love to get back to a level of civility among people. What is happening in this election is setting the tone with how Americans will engage with each other. And frankly, it stinks.

I grew up Republican, but somewhere in the last 10 years, the Republican party left me. They left me in the middle. Here I am, with my economically conservative, yet socially liberal roots. I would really love a candidate who was more economically conservative, because I think it’s good for the US economy, but also was accepting of ALL the people: black, white, gay, straight, religious, non-religious (or religions different from mine).

And now I’m left with this choice that I’m not crazy about. I generally think many of the Republican ideals work – small government, letting free markets work, letting states make local decision-making. But there is something more important than all of this. And it is this question: Can I explain my choice on election day to my children? Can I tell them who I voted for, AND, am I proud for it? Do I feel good about it? Because at the end of the day, character matters. Leadership matters. Kindness Matters. It matters less to me if the government gets bigger, less to me if spending goes up, and it matters SO much more to me if I picked a candidate who extends a basic level of human decency and respect to his/her fellow person. What is most important is that we all teach our children through our actions, through our actions of voting, that we don’t name call, we don’t bully, we don’t belittle women (or anyone), no matter the cause, no matter the issue, no matter the position of power. There are some ideals that are more important than ANY of the political platforms or issues of today. So, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m crossing the aisle, I am voting for Clinton. Trump has no place in this government.

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Not Your Mama’s Conner Prairie

When we relocated to Indy last year, I remember hearing about Conner Prairie, conjuring up memories of my childhood visit there.  Once when mom or dad had a conference in the area, we got to make the trek down from Michigan for a visit.  All I really remember is a bunch of old prairie style homes.  Well, a lot has changed.

What I love about Conner Prairie is that you have different experiences every time you visit.

IMG_2046Case in point: our last visit, we got to pet a nine day old lamb, build blanket forts, and eat fresh made caramel apples.   None of these were available during our last visit, where we got to pretend-shoot rifles in the Civil War Journey, throw a tomahawk in Lenape Indian Camp, and ride in a hot air balloon.

And I always learn something new.  Did you know a group or flock of turkeys is called rafter?  We learned this as the entire rafter (quite literally) followed us through Prairie Town.  While they were harmless, the kids loved but were somewhat frightened a bit to have them within a few inches of their legs.IMG_2050

After visiting the loom house, we learned it takes nine days on a loom to make a blanket.  I think my kids had a whole new appreciation of what it takes to stay warm (or at least I did.)

IMG_2174Back to those delicious caramel apples.  My son got to experience his first, a salted caramel chocolate yellow delicious, while my daughter sampled the apple cider slushie, and even tried the apple, though she doesn’t like caramel or chocolate….miracles never cease.  The Apple Store is only open a few short months in the fall, and celebrates all things apple.  Sales benefit the charitable arm, Conner Prairie Alliance, which funds missions of Conner Prairie.  I even brought a half peck home to share from a local Indiana farm.  Delicious!

And let’s revisit the blanket fort…or aptly named the Hide Away Fort building area of the indoor Discovery Station, which is open all season.  My kids couldn’t get enough.  The area in which Conner Prairie has it right is making very simple things fun, which you could even replicate at home. IMG_2054

So, you have until the end of October run out for those caramel apples and other treats at the Apple Store.  After that, the outdoor portions close for the season (except for select events), but the indoor areas remain open.  So we’ll have to settle for blanket fort making, crafts, and how to harness wind energy, all located inside.  But somehow we don’t feel like that is settling.

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I’m a Guest Blogger: Check out “New Buffalo, Michigan: A Homecoming”

Hi All! I am so fortunate to be a guest blogger for Lisa Lubin (llworldtour.com), friend and former colleague at ABC7 Chicago! Check out my hometown update on her site at http://www.llworldtour.com/new-buffalo-michigan/!
You will love Lisa’s story. Years ago, she left the big job, sold the condo and travelled around the world. I got to live vicariously through her, as she kept a great blog about it all, to which I subscribed. What inspiration. Happy Reading!
New Buffalo Beach

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The Speedway

If you were looking for that insiders look at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, this is not it. Confession: I am a complete racing novice. So, think of this post as an outsiders look at the Speedway. But one can’t live a mere 20 miles away from the IMS and not talk about it, especially this weekend, the annual running of the Indianapolis 500.

ImageBack when I worked in media, we affectionately refer to many Midwestern states the flyover states, ie, less noticed, than the coasts. Indeed, while living abroad, I found while many folks had heard of New York and L.A., the same people gave a blank stare when I mentioned Indiana, Ohio, or Michigan. Sigh. They would often speak of spending a two week vacation in America, but all of that time was either on the coasts, or at Disney World. But there are so many sites to see here, I couldn’t let the weekend pass without giving some love to my new state (as of 6 months ago), Indiana.

I went to my first race a number of years ago, while living in Chicago, but I remember it well as it was Danica Patrick’s first Indy 500 race, so there was extra excitement in the air. First impressions: it is super loud, so bring some headphones. And, my first attempts at photos were a joke. Even with a good Canon Digital rebel, the cars were out of the camera frame most of the time before I could click. Maybe I was jaded, living in a large city, but I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to park only a short distance to enter the track. Although there were crowds, it didn’t feel crowded.Image

ImageWhat I’ve discovered since becoming a Hoosier, is that the IMS has a Community Day in May, where you can visit the pit area, meet drivers and get autographs, play games; it even has a kids area with bounce houses – cool! And, if you enter at Gate 10 (and sign a waiver), you can drive the actual track in your own vehicle – way cool! (If you’ve missed this, you can visit the IMS museum and ride a bus around the track.)Image

To get in the spirit, catch the 500 Festival Parade, today at noon, in downtown Indianapolis. Or visit the Dallara Indy Car Factory, makers of the Indy car chassis, where you can watch an Indy car being made, and the kids can enjoy racing simulators, or my husband’s favorite, build your own car, pinewood derby-style. Adult guests can even pay to ride an actual indy car through the streets of Indianapolis. And cars are not the only Italian import on site; don’t miss Lino’s Coffee, for pizza, snacks, and of course, cappuccino, direct from Parma, Italy.

So, enjoy the race tomorrow. Through research I learned the Speedway is so big that Churchill Downs, Yankee Stadium, the Rose Bowl, the Roman Colosseum and Vatican City all could fit inside the IMS oval, which covers 253 acres. Now, if a local could just tell me why there is a golf course in the infield?  Image  

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