Thursday, August 3, 2017

Whirlwind Weekend in KC

In June I had an action-packed weekend of kid-related activity in Kansas City. I was supposed to go in May, but a work meeting and cancelled flights out of New York ruined the whole plan, so I had to reschedule. It turned out to be for the best, anyway, because I ended up really sick on the original weekend and would have not been a very fun Aunt Molly. 

Griffin was out of town with his dad, but I got to see Sully & Mira play baseball and Harrison wander around being mischievous.

Sully only had one game. He got an RBI hit! He is still very small.

He told me he would throw my phone in the toilet if I didn't delete this picture. Joke's on you, Sulls!

Mira was playing in a tournament. I think I saw her play five games? Maybe six. I also went to her dance recital and took her to see Wonder Woman. She's always looked just like her mom, but it's getting pretty uncanny now that she's so tall; out of the corner of my eye I thought she was Hillary a few times.

Harry is the Banana of the Smith kids. He is so bad but so cute and is completely aware he can do whatever he wants and get away with it.

Mom and I managed to cram in a bit of the Sunday afternoon Royals game between Mira's softball and dance recital. Hillary's season tickets are coincidentally right in front of my cousin's, so I got to see some family I haven't seen since my grandmother died.

However, it started raining almost instantly, so we had some nachos and then had to leave for the dance recital. All for the best - the rain delay ended up being a couple of hours.

It was a weekend of nonstop action that gave me a really interesting glimpse into suburban parenthood! I'm tired enough just getting all my library books read most of the time; this lifestyle would kill me.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Road Trip!

There is a famous restaurant in Kinston, North Carolina, about 90 minutes from Raleigh, called Chef and the Farmer. The chef, Vivian Howard, has a PBS show and a recent award-winning cookbook. I've been hearing about this place for years - it opened around the time we moved here - and finally looked into going. When I made the reservation in February, the first available Saturday night was Memorial Day weekend. Insanity! 

We decided to make a mini-trip out of it, and drove out to New Bern to see some North Carolina history things beforehand. New Bern was the first state capital and this building, the Tryon Palace (governor's mansion), is also featured in the fourth Outlander book. I spent a lot of time on the tour imagining Claire wandering around listlessly thinking about how she was going to get back to Jamie.

I accidentally left my phone in the car so we are reliant on Benjamin for documentation. He likes to really focus in on small details.

Historic New Bern was really interesting and definitely something we should have done sooner, given our propensity for touring old houses and buildings.

We headed back to Kinston and checked into an amazing boutique hotel down the block from the restaurant. When I originally booked the dinner, the hotel didn't have any availability, so we were going to stay at a Hampton Inn out on the highway. At the last second I checked again, and hooray! A room had opened up.

The O'Neil Hotel is in an old bank building, and they've retained a lot of the original infrastructure in the room design.

Our room had an original vault that had been turned into a small bunk bed room.

The lobby was great, too. Impeccably decorated and with another original vault.

Inside the vault is free coffee and beer! The hotel owners also own a microbrewery.

There was a little balcony lounge where we hung out for a bit.

Downtown Kinston is like the small towns where I grew up in Northwest Missouri. Like most rural areas, many storefronts were empty. However, Kinston has really undergone a revitalization that began with Chef & the Farmer. Vivian Howard has another restaurant there too, and I'm sure the boutique hotel wouldn't exist without the demand created by the restaurant.

The restaurant was very unpretentious.

And the food totally and completely lived up to the gype. We had the grits to start, then the asparagus and poached egg. I had the mahi as my entree and Ben got the pork. The greens that went along with his pork were incredible, and caused me to buy the cookbook immediately in hopes of finding out how she made them taste like that.

After eating all that food, we walked around downtown Kinston for a while, which was mostly deserted. There was a park with this weird art installation but no signage explaining what was going on.

All in all, it was a fun way to spend part of our holiday weekend! I would go back any time.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

I drank wine at the beach!

Since leaving the wine distributor where I worked for eleven years, I've stayed in touch with my boss's daughter (who is my age) and we've become friends. I miss the wine industry! She invited me to come to the beach for the Beaufort Wine Festival this year, an event for which I made other people's hotel and dinner arrangements for over a decade but had never actually attended myself.

On the way there, driving by myself through rural Eastern North Carolina, my tire pressure light came on. Sighhhhh. I didn't really know what to do and debated ignoring it, but then saw KEVIN 'TIRE' on the side of the road so I stopped and asked a very nice man to check my tires. I'm no dummy, though; I took a picture in case I got murdered.

The tires were fine, fortunately; it was the first truly hot weekend of the year and I guess the heat makes a difference or something. Blah blah blah. I pressed on.

There are wine festival events all weekend, wine dinners & tastings, but the part I attended was sampling wines & snacks in a big tent outdoors. I saw lots of people I used to work with and drank a lot of rose. It was a great way to pass a Saturday afternoon.

After the event, we went to a house where many of my old company's employees and suppliers stay for the weekend. Let me be clear, "many" means like eight. But I guess they all brought wine. There was plenty.

This was the first time I'd really been involved in the social side of the wine business and it was a whole different situation than sitting in the office doing compliance paperwork, let me tell you. We went to a bar. A bar!! I don't even remember the last time I went to a bar.

The next morning I amazingly did not feel terrible. I stayed with my friend at my old boss's condo, which turned out to be understated but spotless and beautiful and perfectly situated, which is consistent with everything about the way he lives. I miss you, Mr. Kennedy!

Monday, July 31, 2017

New York City

Benjamin turned 40 in April. I had to be in New York the following week for work, so we decided we should go up on his birthday and spend the weekend in the city. (Incidentally, my work meeting subsequently got cancelled so I had to buy an extra ticket to come home which kind of sucked. But anyway.)

We stayed at a new hotel right across the street from Carnegie Hall, conveniently called The Carnegie Hotel. It was small and quiet - only four rooms per floor. We could also see Trump Tower from the window, which of course is not a bonus. The streets all around there are blocked off with permanent NYPD security stations and cops all over the place. THANKS, TRUMP.

We were only a couple blocks south of the park, so we spent some time time wandering around there.

Here's Ben doing that thing where he won't smile for a picture because he thinks he looks dumb, so instead he just looks mad.

On this trip we decided to hit some of the smaller museums we hadn't visited before, so Saturday morning we headed toward the Museum of the City of New York on the Upper East Side. However, due to a bathroom emergency by someone (NOT ME) we ended up popping into the to the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Museum as it happened to be on the way. The Cooper Hewitt turned out to be awesome! It's in Andrew Carnegie's old mansion and was worth it for the building alone.

There were also all sorts of weird exhibits too, though. Lots of 1920s memorabilia (jeweled cigarette cases, flapper dresses, etc.) and a whole series of rooms about how designers use scraps to make something new. There was also an entire room devoted to complicated miniature staircases. It was right up our alley.

The Museum of the City of NY was good, too. I love a nice history & culture museum.

We walked across the Brooklyn Bridge on Saturday morning. It was extremely terrible. There were way too many people and it was hot in the sun and UGH. I'm not going to do that ever again. It started raining then, so we headed back up to Midtown and went to the Morgan Library and Museum. Another great museum filled with oddities! I saw a molding of George Washington's face!

The next day we went back downtown to try to find the oldest part of town. Ben is always really into this sort of thing.

We found it! Look how old these little buildings are!

After this we walked to the Tenement Museum to learn about the Irish people who emigrated in the 1800s. I had been there once before a couple of years ago and remembered it being extremely bleak, but our tour guide this time framed everything in a not-as-terrible light. I was kind of disappointed, to be honest, because I had talked up the horror quite a bit before we got there.

We ended Sunday with a comedy show at the UCB Theatre, which was super fun. Then we walked back to our hotel alllll the way from the Lower East Side to Midtown.

We ate our faces off the entire time, but I did not take any pictures of the food. Restaurants visited included Momofuku Ma Peche, Marc Forgione, Dianne & Elisabeth, and a random pizza place on 10th Avenue. We were supposed to have a final dinner on Sunday night, but our brunch at Marc Forgione was completely ridiculous and we couldn't fit in any more food.

Before we left for the airport on Monday we did another loop through the park. The tallest building here is a new residential structure. I looked into it in the cab and the top floor penthouse is for sale for EIGHTY TWO MILLION DOLLARS.

I love New York! I mean, I always kind of hate it by the time the trip is over, but then I love it again immediately after a couple of days away.

Friday, July 28, 2017

First Annual SMARTS Reunion

We moved away from LA twelve years ago, and I hadn't been back at all until last year. And then I went again in April! My best high school friends decided to have a reunion weekend to celebrate our 40th birthday year, and picked LA as the location. 

I took an Uber from the airport to Hollywood and he drove me through downtown. Look! That's where I used to work! Downtown LA has changed so, so much in twelve years. Tons of new skyscrapers and development.

We stayed at the W Hollywood, where we got a good rate thanks to one of my internet friends. The location was perfect, right at Hollywood & Vine, fairly central and walkable to lots of stuff. The first thing we did, after hugging and crying, was get lunch at Shake Shack and then manicures & pedicures. Fancying up for the weekend! It is always so freaking good to see Erin, one of my top people in life since we played Mastermind together in the 3rd grade.

We had a drink on the hotel patio, and then quickly decided to never have a drink there again as the cheapest thing was $17. OH, Hollywood.

The first day we went to the La Brea Tar Pits, which somehow in over four years of living there I had never visited. It was cool! Right there in the middle of town!

The LA County Museum of Art is right nearby, so we popped in there for a while as well. One thing about traveling with girlfriends as opposed to Ben is that everyone is on board with asking strangers to take your picture.

We spent an extensive amount of time trying to choose cheap tourist t-shirts so we could all match. For some reason, 90% of the t-shirts on Hollywood Boulevard are sized for tiny people. I had this experience in New York, too - I don't know what's up with that. Surely tourists in general are not smaller than the average person. Unfortunately even the largest of this hot number did not fit us.

We went to dinner at Musso & Frank, an old Hollywood landmark. We had a very outgoing waiter who told us all about how Frank Sinatra used to sit in our booth.

The next day we took a star homes tour, which left from a very weird little office in a seedy strip mall but turned out to be super fun. This is Richard Simmons' house. Poor Richard Simmons!

And this is the view from Leonard DiCaprio's estate. I took a bunch of pictures of other houses but now cannot recall who any of them belong to.


At the end he drove us up to Mulholland for views of the city and the Hollywood sign. I miss LA! Too bad it's completely unaffordable and the traffic is insane and it never rains.

We then took an Uber to Santa Monica, to walk from the pier down to Venice. Erin wrote SMARTS on the beach.

Here we are in our matching shirts! I don't know what I thought life was going to be like at 40 back when we were all cruising the Belt in St. Joe at 16, but I know I never pictured us in matching t-shirts at Hollywood & Vine.

We decided to make the SMARTS reunion an annual event, and already picked the dates for 2018 so everyone would block the time on their calendars. It was a perfect weekend - there is nothing like spending time with people who've known you literally your whole life. We need more of that in this world.