Nearly a Year of Thankfulness

Buckle up for a long read with nearly a year’s worth of postings in one of thankfulness.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I think it is worth mentioning the many things to be thankful for in the most recent months. But, in fact, it’s been nearly a year of thankfulness with trips, family reunions, and gatherings with friends.

Each one of the following mentions is deserving of their own post, in which I may expand upon at a future time, so just summary pics for now.


These are not listed in any real order but here’s the most recent activity, experiencing the Spirit of Autumn exhibit at the ArtTechHouse, where we where just some of the many adults who got to act like kids again. This thankfulness was about leaving your worries behind and remembering what it was like during childhood to experience the simple joy of discovery.

We colored leaves and looked for them to appear on the digital wall while we had an “artini.” Before we took our turn, we watched others dance with leaves in the main space and the side rooms, as well as make magic happen with a liquid-lighted floor that resembled what you see in the commercials for an iPhone 10.


Experiencing Spirit of Autumn at Artechouse

2_OurLeaves Artechouse_1363_AIE

Coloring our leaves

3_ColoringLeave Artechouse_1377_AIE

2nd Batch of our Leaves on ArtIsEverywhere

2nd Batch of our Leaves

watching them appear and fall on the walls_AIE

watching them appear and fall on the walls

watching them appear and fall on the walls_AIE 2 watching them appear and fall on the walls3_AIE Dancing on the leaves on Art Is Everywhere

Making leaves dance on Art Is Everywhere

Making leaves dance

Liquid light floor at Artechouse on ArtIsEverywhere

Enjoying an Artini at Artechouse on ArtIsEverywhere

Enjoying an Artini

Everyone came out of this exhibit smiling as did we. You could just sense the stress of adult issues just melt away.

What needed fun! This is the first digital museum of it’s kind in DC. I’m looking forward to the next Kingdom of Colors exhibit!

October was a month full of thankfulness. We enjoyed visiting 4 different Virginia wineries with friends on two different beautiful fall weekends. This thankfulness was for actual autumn color with crisp weather in the air and friends to enjoy it all with, while leisurely sipping wine with fun conversation.

Wine Tasting Weekends

Barboursville was the first stop on our wine tasting adventure. It is the oldest vineyard in VA and maybe in the country. It was started in colonial days at the time of Thomas Jefferson. Here are the ruins of the original manor house.

Original Barboursville ruins_AIE

Original Barboursville ruins

The present-day winery has a very California feel to it. That was perfect as some of our wine-loving friends used to live in California and know their wines. It’s our goal to do a wine tasting trip with them in Napa one day soon.

Barboursville present winery_AIE

Barboursville’s present winery

After all the wine we sampled here, we came back to our favorite, their Octagon. We happened to have it for our son’s Rehearsal Dinner.

Our favorite Barboursville wine_AIE

Our favorite wine

Barboursville Special aged barrels_AIE

Barboursville special-aged barrels looked picture perfect all lined up

Pearmund was next. We have fond memories here because it is where our families met to enjoy each other’s company the day before Piers graduated from UVA. That was a splendid day then and an all the more welcoming experience now. Families were there playing games. Friends were enjoying the renovated patio with 2 fire burning pits. Love that smell! We enjoyed a picnic and a rare chance to meet the owner and even tamped down the grapes.

Pearmund Winery_AIE

Pearmund vineyard and picnic spot_AIE

Pearmund vineyard & picnic spot

Tamping down the grapes on AIE

Tamping down the grapes

We visited Linden and Green Hill another weekend and boy were we thankful we changed our date to Saturday because it rained all day the following Sunday, which would have been miserable wine-tasting weather.

Linden Vineyards_AIE

Linden Vineyards

Green Hill Winery_AIE

Green Hill Winery

The thankfulness during this trip was that one of our friends is a member of Green Hill. We were lucky to sit upstairs in the Members’ Loft because it was noisy and crowded downstairs.

Green Hill Members Loft with friends_AIE

Members Loft with friends

Green Hill has a chateau down its pasture road that is set up for private wine tastings for members. We visited just to get a glimpse of what a pleasurable time it could be to linger. This entire landscape was very appropriate for the wealthy Middleburg set with horses and all.

Green Hill Members Chateau_AIE

Green Hill Members Chateau

Painted horse at Green Hill_AIE

Painted Horse on the walls of the Green Hill Chateau

Ending this segment by going back to Barboursville with wine tasting friends.

Back to Barboursville with Wine Tasting Friends_AIE

Back to Barboursville with Wine Tasting Friends

The Wharf

In between these two wine weekends, we celebrated the public opening of The Wharf development in DC. Piers had been working extremely hard to complete his project management of the Intercontinental Hotel for Clark Construction. We wanted to witness it first hand. He gave us a special tour.

Intercontinental Hotel at The Wharf_AIE

Intercontinental Hotel at The Wharf

Inside the Intercontinental Hotel Lobby at Wharf_AIE

Inside the Intercontinental Hotel Lobby

Although not all restaurants were open, people were milling about, there was musical, even artistic entertainment as bands played and dance troupes performed throughout the development. Restaurants had their soft openings but there are many more to come, like Kaliwa, which I’m looking forward to. It is part of the EGFG (Eat Good Food Group), primarily comprising of restaurants in Alexandria. This will be their first foray into DC with proven success under their belt in Old Town.

District Wharf_AIE

Looking out over Wharf_AIE

Looking out over the Wharf

Kaliwa restaurant is coming to the Wharf_AIE

Kaliwa is coming

There will be more pics to post about this. Meanwhile, The Canopy Hotel also has a location in this development with their own Central and Rooftop Whiskey bars that I want to check out.

The Canopy Reykjavik hotel happened to be one of the more interesting stays when I took my three-week, Scandinavian-ancestry trip to celebrate my mother’s 80th birthday this past June. I’ll post about this later but this was a great destination to end our thankfulness excursion.

The Canopy Reykjavek Lobby_AIE

The Canopy Reykjavek Lobby and snack area

Let me throw in our recent tour of Jos. A. Magnus Whiskey Distillery while whiskey is on my mind.

Joseph A Magnus Whiskey Bottle via Washington Post_AIE

Joseph A Magnus Whiskey Bottle has a pre-prohibition design sensibility (via Washington Post)

We were guests of good friends who purchased the tour as an auction item for their son’s school fundraiser. We were lucky to reap the benefits. Who knew this distillery has roots to my father’s KY home’s Woodford Reserve, or that DC has its own Distillery Trail. This would be worth doing while sampling DC’s best pies along the way. We discovered how much this Ivy City (New York Ave), above  (Noma / North of Massachusettes Avenue) and Atlas neighborhoods, have dramatically changed since we used to take our boys to school nearby.

Joseph A Magnus Tasting Room via Sorrell Design_AIE

Joseph A Magnus Tasting Room via Sorrell Design

It’s hard to believe we experienced most of these things in just November and October. But the summer was not uneventful. There were beaucoup trips that included a 3-week cruise (still writing about in spurts), a family reunion, a family getaway to Rhode Island, and our (6th) annual beach vacation with friends.


Immediately after returning from my June cruise, we took a close-by excursion to have dinner at the Inn at Little Washington in VA, where we were treated to the most exceptional meal I’ve ever had. No wonder Chef Patrick O’Connell’s restaurant gets some of the highest, most-esteemed ratings for food and service. It simply was the best! Our thankfulness goes to our friends for enabling us to experience such perfection. They had also treated us to Métier, also high up on the list.

Dessert at The Inn at Little Washington_AIE

Dessert at The Inn at Little Washington. The only picture I remembered to take!

What would July be without fireworks in DC?! And what better spot than to view on the lawn of The White House. This was a special teat full of thankfulness to our friend who works in the administration.

Fourth of July at The White House_AIE

Most of these folks must be young staffers

Fourth of July at The White House at night_AIE

We always enjoy our trips to visit family in Rhode Island and walk in the Wildlife Refuge. We didn’t see a bobcat this year but did see swans swim into a picturesque photo op.

Trustom Pond Swans_AIE

Trustom Pond Swans

We had other wildlife join us on our hike but perhaps a highlight for human wild-life was a trip to Sons of Liberty Spirits Company to taste their unique whiskey made with beer mash. Family members bellied up to the bar to sample flights in their cool basement-type, rec-room, complete with foosball and pool tables. The whiskey tastings were surprisingly good. I like Uprising and Battlecry the best. We went to the neighborhood liquor store to purchase a small set, that we ended up taking with us to the beach, but they were out of their Apple Flavored Whiskey. It would be wonderful for after-dinner-drinks, particularly in the fall — instead of amaro — for a change. I like their cocktail line up too.  Time to go back because looks like I can’t purchase online!

Sons of Liberty Apple Flavored Whiskey_AIE

via Sons of Liberty

Finally, when Congress gets their summer break, we get ours! Our annual beach vacation to Ocracoke this year included: beautiful scenery, as always; experimental fishing; visiting the mosquito-infested, island and ghost-town of Portsmouth; chatting with locals who remember us;  incredible sunsets; seeing the solar eclipse with the last glasses on the island; and homemade ice cream!

Ocracoke view_AIE

Our Ocracoke view is almost everyday

buck-eye fishing lure_AIE

I caught a puppy drum redfish with a buck-eye fishing lure and then threw it back

Ocracoke Solar Eclipse_AIE

Solar eclipse and we lucked out by finding the last pair of glasses on the island

Miller High Life is truly the King of Beers on a beach trip_AIE

Our enlightenment — why spend so much for craft beers when Miller High Life is truly the King of Beers on a beach trip?! Thankfulness for a cheap good beer!

We were all INCREDIBLY thankful that we took our drop-off-guide’s offer to use his mosquito netting. There’s no one living in this Portsmouth ghost town but if there were, the mosquitos would have killed them! None of us have been attacked so much and not one bite with our protection. I laugh every time I see this picture! 😉

Gearing up for mosquitos on Portmouth Island_AIE

Gearing up for mosquitos on Portsmouth Island and very thankful for netting!

Artistic map displaying the importance of Portsmouth_AIE

Artistic map displaying the importance of Portsmouth

Making ice cream_AIE

Making ice cream

Thankful for happiness & homemade ice cream_AIE

Thankful for happiness & homemade ice cream

We have such thankfulness that our friend puts his gourmet talents to good use and does all the cooking!

celery gets star treatment_AIE

Even celery can get star treatment if cut correctly = beautiful

Ocracoke Sunsets_AIE

Thankful for sunsets

Gulf Shores, Alabama proved to be the optimal place for a family reunion. My sister organized and was able to find a house that had 10 bedrooms and right on the dunes. All of my siblings with their families and our mother were able to make it — except our boys now that they are independent and in the working world.

Gulf Shores house_AIE

The first floor you see here is really the 2nd floor balcony.

Other things for thankfulness: Good thing we left right before hurricane Nate and despite the she-crabs laying their eggs where you couldn’t see when you stepped in the water or stinging jellyfish, I’m extremely thankful I wasn’t shark bait!

We walked into the Bon Secour Wildlife Refuge on the beach side of the peninsula but decided since we didn’t have our cell phones we wouldn’t continue because of “Gator” Lake and the dunes were so large on either side that we could have been walking into a death trap. Hmmm, best to not take that chance. But then, who knew blacktip sharks could maneuver so fast with sharp left turns, in the blink of an eye and in just one and a half feet of water!! I almost became shark food when I got in the water here. Fortunately, Peter was standing on a dune so he could see the sharks that I did not. He yelled at me to get out fast as they headed my way.

Gulf Shores view every morning from our balcony_AIE

Our Gulf Shores view every morning from our balcony

Large size Gulf Shore fish_AIE

No kidding! Thankful for artistic renderings of large size Gulf Shore fish

Cobia fish catch on Gulf Shore pier_AIE

Witnessing a cobia fish catch on the town pier (click on #2 in the map of the Gulf Shores hyperlink above to see the full pier)

Blacktip sharks below the Gulf Shores pier wait for chum_AIE

Blacktip sharks below the pier waiting for chum (and people bait most likely…)

gorgeous Gulf Shores sunset_AIE

gorgeous Gulf Shores sunset

Before putting a sunset on our Gulf Shores reunion, what would a trip to what is affectionately known as the “redneck riviera” be if we didn’t swing by the Flora-Bama bar with the best drinks ever! The bar is located on the state line between Florida and Alabama, hence its clever name. We had to wait for the cop halting traffic so large groups of people could cross the highway to go to the main bar to participate in the Assembly of God Church. It was 10 am on a Sunday after all. Many had beer cups in their hands… We popped in the dockside bar to get our fill before driving to the airport. What a trip!

Floribama Bar with Best drinks_AIE

Floribama Bar & Best drinks!

Yes, you might gather there is a lot of drinking going on within these posts…Well, what can I say, I’m from New Orleans!

Despite the latest health report claiming that there is a 50% increase to get head and neck and other cancers for those who drink more than one alcoholic drink or glass of wine a day (this is a moderate drinker), I typically don’t drink during the week. But when celebrations occur and the weekend is here, I say, “Life is too short not to live it and with cocktails!”

Thankfulness continues for cocktails and cats!

It was this time last year when we adopted our Main Coon Cat kitten, Ingrid. She’s now about a year and a half old and she and Ingmar get along well. It’s been fun to see them chase after one another like a tag, you’re it game and hear them romp through the house, even in the wee hours of the night. They are happy > we are happy. I have much thankfulness for a good year!!

What long paws Ingrid has_AIE

What long paws Ingrid has

cat and clivia blossoms_AIE

Ingmar stops to smell the clivia flowers. I’m thankful mine bloomed and that I now know how to control fungus gnats that almost destroyed them.

Cats enjoy watching birds_AIE

Cats exhibit the art of birdwatching

Wishing you all the best for your Thanksgiving!


A Celebratory Week to Remember

Well it was a fun, celebratory week to remember — one for the recollection record books!

Easter Sunday started it off — after a month of prep with finally getting a new garage roof completed. We still have some refinement to do so I’ll have to post a picture later. My Clivia plant, also known as a Kaffir Lily, seemed to be waiting to bloom on this special occasion. How appropriate and really beautiful this African plant is. My father-in-law gave it to me with multiple “babies” as offshoots that I divided and gave to my sister and sons. I’m waiting to hear if theirs’ bloomed.

Kaffir Lily blooms on Art Is Everywhere

Other plants that are flourishing are on our roof. The two types of butter/bib and arugula lettuce are three times the size of this now and nearly ready to harvest. Snap beans, beets and cauliflower seeds are coming along. I’ll need to replant the carrots though.

Rooftop Garden GlowPear Containers on AIE

You can read more about these hydroponic GlowPear planters on Houzz, where we purchased a second one.

My husband was able to get tickets through his office to the National Museum of African American History & Culture (NMAAHC), which is near impossible since they are sold out already through July. There was a special viewing between 8 – 10 am midweek and I took my friend Liza. Although we needed Peter with us to enter, he decided not to attend in order for us to be able to when security discovered my miniature pairing knife in my purse that I had forgotten all about. Ugh!! They wouldn’t let me leave it with them so Peter took it back to his car and missed the museum opportunity but he’ll get more tickets. He also had a meeting that was going to shorten his time anyway and you really need a full day, as we discovered, to take it all in. We didn’t return home until 4:30. It took over 7 hours to go through at a leisurely pace, which you need to do to be able to read and process all the info. Fortunately, I had cleared my work calendar in advance. There is a tremendous amount to cover and the museum does a good job of showing viewers the progression of the African American history through three sub-terrain, what I call the “oppressive” concourses that move through the start of Slavery to Freedom > Defending Freedom and Segregation > Changing America 1968 & Beyond. Although there is still a sense of uncertainty at the end of the exhibit, one leaves with a positive appreciation of the African American history and all its accomplishments as well as the strength of the American Spirit.

The African American experience is the lens through which we understand what it is to be an American. — Lonnie Bunch (Founding Director)

NMAAHC museum building on AIE

NMAAHC museum

The first sense one has upon entering the museum is from the exterior grill work that suppresses the light, yet fills the space with ornamentation. It is supposed to recall the grill work in New Orleans that was made by slave labor and you do get a sense, especially in the lower galleries, of being in a cargo hold of a slave ship with only one way up and out.

NMAAHC grill work on Art Is Everywhere

You start at the bottom and walk through each concourse and move onto the next via ramps. There are no elevators or restrooms on any of these floors. If the intent was to be somewhat uncomfortable, then it works. There are, however, plenty of places to sit and rest, watch a movie, reflect or just take a break. I had to use the restroom and needed to walk all the way up while Liza rested. There was a placard at the top warning that once you exited you could not re-enter. I had to flag someone down to ask them if I could come back in. Although it wasn’t a problem, I can’t imagine the planners didn’t think this common occurrence through. It must happen a lot. There were hoards of people in line a this point and we were only half way through the exhibit. I hustled back to get a move on before it became crowded. It was starting to on the third concourse, especially when we visited the Emmett Till Memorial, where no pictures were allowed. This was a horrible event about a 14 year old African American boy who was lynched simply because some “white” folk were looking to make examples of blacks. The outcome is what sparked insurgence, uprising and riots, along with the tragic death of Martin Luther King. However, the final part of the main exhibit shows the progression of the African Americans to assimilate within the middle class, become major TV and music celebrities. In fact, America has a lot to be thankful for with their cultural contribution.

Colonial Slavery figures on Art Is Everywhere

Prominent Colonial historical figures including Thomas Jefferson and Mum Bet, who sued the State of Massachusetts to win her freedom and consequently abolished slavery in MA

Ashley's Sack 1 NMAAHC on AIE

This story is pretty heartbreaking. There were many that were but this one spoke to me.

Ashley's Sack 2 NMAAHC on AIE

It was interesting to note that at the very start of the Slave Trade, which was sparked by the sugar trade, Creole Africans were wealthy diplomats and highly sought after for their language capabilities and cultural knowledge.

Concourse 3 - 2 NMAAHC on AIE

Moving from Concourse 3 to 2

slave and free houses at NMAAHC on Art Is Everywhere

Juxtaposition between Slave House on lower Concourse 3 and Freed Slave’s own home on upper Concourse 2

Stereotypes at NMAAHC on AIE

Stereotypes in toys and paraphenalia

Segregated clinic hours at NMAAHC on AIE

These segregated clinic hours are hard to believe in this current time

Maple Leaf Rag on AIE

My parents used to dance to the Maple Leaf Rag

Angola guard station_interactive bar at NMAAHC on AIE

Angola Prison Guard Station and the Interactive “Segregation Bar” where you can follow a movement as if you’re a member

Soul Train on Art Is Everywhere

1968 & Beyond brings up Soul Train, which was big part of my childhood

Assimilating into Middle America on Art Is Everywhere

Assimilating into Middle America

Another Rat Pack Digs on Art Is Everywhere

The other Rat Pack Digs in Chicago

Foxy Brown and Sly and Family Stone on AIE

Foxy Brown movies still play on TV and notice Sly & Family Stone written on his piano keys

Main NMAAHC exhibit end on AIE

Main exhibit ends with highlights from the 2000’s like Hurricane Katrina and the Obama Administration, how could we forget.

We decided to break for lunch. The food at the Sweet Home Cafe was excellent! You could choose which regional fare you wanted to try. Of course I went right for the Creole Southern Duck / Andouille Sausage Gumbo but then changed my mind at the last-minute to get the Shrimp and Grits because the shrimp were gigantic! The meal was delicious and a generous portion! The dining hall was in the shape of the “ark” or museum Congo ship, yet each layer had vines growing in the indented, internal troughs. The back walls were mirrored to make the space look twice as large as what we thought it could hold. We didn’t wait around for that test because the buses of people were now streaming in.

Panoramic Mall view from the top of NMAAHC on AIE

Panoramic Mall view from the top

Looking down on the Gift Shop on AIE

Looking down on the Gift Shop

Reproductions of Mary Jackson's baskets in the gift shop on AIE

Reproductions of Mary Jackson’s baskets in the gift shop

After a much needed energy refresh, we tackled the top four floors. Similarly to the sub-floors, where you start at the bottom and walk up, we started in reverse at the very top and moved downward. We visited all the floors but only experienced three. There were elevators and escalators and restrooms on all of these. The top floor Culture Galleries was my favorite. It showed the importance of the African American culture in food, music, arts, fashion, and sports. I by-passed the last, but fully savored all the others. I was just as impressed with the exhibition layout as I was with the rich content. The first oval room had double display bays with the interior, bench-seating to the double-sided, wall-alcoves with a musical entertainment-video that changed visuals with the continuous music that wrapped around the top of the room. We moved from here to the Visual Art Gallery with primarily contemporary art (not my thing) to the Musical Achievement wing with Chuck Berry’s car greeting us at the entry. I breezed through the Theatre section and will have to go back.

Food & Culture greet you on the top 4th floor of NMAAHC on AIE

Food & Culture greet you on the top 4th floor. Chef Leah Chase is prominently featured with her Dooky Chase restaurant in New Orleans.

Earth Wind & Fire at NMAAHC on AIE

Earth Wind & Fire is one of my favorite bands highlighted in the Musical component

Allen Toussaint is mentioned in the Jazz sectionAllen Toussaint is mentioned in the Jazz section on AIE

Allen Toussaint is mentioned in the Jazz section

Level 3 housed the Community Galleries, where some of the main exhibit details were further explored. For instance, there was an entire room dedicated to Muhammad Ali, another section to Ben Carson, and another to the Military Experience. Maybe I missed it, but I didn’t see any recognition given to Clarence Thomas but did see Thurgood Marshal and Anita Hill mentioned in regard to the Supreme Court. There were also mini exhibits dedicated to Making a Way Out of No Way with progress in medical, religion and school, etc., highlighted.

We didn’t have enough energy to explore the Explore More Gallery on the 2nd level, which was mainly interactive exhibits. I popped my head in and saw one older white woman, who was the only one dancing to an instructional video by an African American dance troupe. Others were watching and encouraging her as if she was playing “Wei” by herself but doing a pretty good job.

We took an Uber home and had an interesting discussion with our American-Cuban driver, Marisol about the experience. Funny, we missed Oprah by one day, as she was there the next day to screen the Henrietta Lacks movie airing on HBO. I read the book several years ago and am interested to see the movie. It’s definitely a story that needs more exposure.

Earlier in the week, Peter and I celebrated our wedding anniversary by finally visiting the Trump Hotel to see how the Old Post Office was revamped. We had drinks in the main lobby, which is huge but well decorated. The main architecture and iron struts of the original building remained and painted gold. I liked the peacock, teal blue and green velvet seating paired with amber and gold throughout the expansive room. The bar wall was mirrored to the top and filled with clear glass decanters and glasses situated on dark mahogany shelving. Very impressive. Two large TV’s were playing Fox News. We were seated next to what had to be a bevy of beautiful friends of The Real Housewives of DC. No kidding. This was entertaining to say the least.

Trump International Hotel anniversary for drinks on AIE

Trump International Hotel anniversary for drinks. The ladies had left by this point.

Trump Hotel Bar area on Art Is Everywhere

Although the ambience was captivating, the service was off. We had to call someone over after 15 minutes. They gave us water and nuts without napkins and the hostess took our initial order. The place was nearly filled but not that busy. We sampled the signature cocktails, which were unfortunately too expensive at $25 – $29 and actually did not taste very good, which is too bad! We stuck with wine and cheese choices which were good and surprisingly affordable. All in all, it was a different way to celebrate an off-year; even though, there can be some improvements made, especially if you’re expecting the best.

Trump DC Hotel at night on AIE

Trump DC Hotel at night

Meanwhile, the rest of the week was enjoying the gorgeous spring weather. Even the cats seemed to relish this indoors and out.

Cats sleeping on AIE

This picture cracks me up. These cats sleep so differently.

Cats outside on AIE

Ingrid enjoys outside on AIE

Ingrid just turned 1 year old