Tuesday, June 18, 2019

National Museum of African American History & Culture

During personal time on a work trip to Washington, D.C., I had the privilege of visiting the National Museum of African American Heritage & Culture. I’ve taken some time to consider what to write about my experience, because I did not want to appropriate or claim a single piece of it as my own. It is not mine, and it’s an undeniable part of our history and culture as Americans. And I wanted to tell my friends, you. must. go.

It is one of the most moving museums I’ve seen in the world in my lifetime. I spent hours there yet couldn’t see everything or read every word. I cried. I smiled. And I honestly left feeling exhausted.

I started with history, and I was taken underground in one of the biggest elevators I have ever seen. I made my way up three floors covering centuries of history, learning how the economies of so many countries and the outcomes of so many wars were built and won on the backs and lives of so many black and enslaved Americans. I paid my respects at the Emmett Till Memorial, wondering if as the mother of a son I could ever be so brave as Mamie, especially as violence and racism have not ended even today. As you walk up through the history floors, you begin to see more light from above. The highest floors covering culture feel brightest, filled with optimism and pride.

I listened, and I tried to understand. I appreciated it the best I could.

If I had to pick a word that describes this museum, I would choose resilience. And if you’re ever in D.C., you absolutely need to see it.

(originally written for and posted to my personal Facebook profile)

Monday, May 20, 2019

Chattanooga for Families

Chattanooga is one of my favorite places in Tennessee, quite possibly the South in general.  It feels like this cool combo of Asheville and Cincinnati, a city that is outdoorsy and unique and friendly.  There's good food and drink, friendly people, and vibrant neighborhoods to explore.  It was one of our fav places to go before we had Kenny, so we decided to head back for a weekend with him as a family getaway.

Walnut St. Bridge

The downside to our visit is that it was a rainy weekend, but we still enjoyed ourselves.  We chose a hotel downtown, knowing that we would be walking distance to so many places.  The downtown area has plenty of sidewalks!  We took a walk across the Walnut St. Bridge, the world's longest pedestrian bridge, until the rain made us take a break.

But the #1 reason we wanted to bring Kenny to Chattanooga was the world-class AZA-certified Tennessee Aquarium.  It's one of our favorite aquariums, and we visited during Chatt trips in 2014 and 2017.  Kenny loves the fish tank at daycare, and so we figured it would be a good time to take him.  He LOVED it.

The sea turtle was going by and doubled back to check out Kenny!

The aquarium is perfect for families.  We took our stroller, but Kenny could stand and look at some of the exhibits on his own.  You can take the elevator to the top and then work your way down, with automatic doors and ramps.  Since it is divided into two buildings (River and Ocean Journeys), we decided to do one building before lunch/naptime and another after.  Your tickets allow you to come back in if you leave!  This is where staying at a hotel nearby came in handy.  The box office opens 30 minutes before the aquarium does, so I went ahead and bought our tickets (there is a discount for Veterans) before heading back to the hotel to help get Kenny ready.  It was nice to be able to visit restaurants nearby and hit the hotel for naptime to make the most of a full day at the aquarium.  We had so much fun!

I think it's obvious that places like the aquarium are family-friendly, but Chattanooga also has a lot of dining options.  One thing I miss about life pre-kid is those foodie dinner dates we used to have.  Public House was one of the restaurants on my list from years ago that I wanted to visit, but I wasn't sure it was feasible with a toddler.  Then I learned they have a three-course kids menu, so they had to be welcoming to families, right?  I made a reservation on the earlier side (I find people are more friendly if you are eating with kids at 5 or 6, because non-kid people tend to eat later) and we braved it.  It was a great experience for all of us, as Dan and I could enjoy cocktails and delicious food in a setting we normally wouldn't take Kenny.  They even validate parking, y'all.

We also ate at Beast + Barrel, Mellow Mushroom, and Milk & Honey, all of which were accommodating of Kenny.  Milk & Honey didn't have a kids menu, and it was very small, but they had the first-ever high top highchairs I've ever soon!

Public House Chattanooga

Years ago, Dan and I decided that we would try to visit only AZA-certified zoos and aquariums.  Would you believe that Chattanooga has TWO such places to visit?  The Chattanooga Zoo is very small, so small that it might be overlooked as a place to go if you're not local.   But if you've got a toddler, it's absolutely perfect!  It wasn't crowded, parking was ample and close by, and the prices are low.  (In fact, for Veterans admission is FREE!)  Kenny loved running around the zoo, and they had some great exhibits.

Petting Zoo

Because it wasn't insanely crowded, we really felt we could let Kenny explore and walk on his own, which was perfect to wear him out before our car ride home.  The zoo is also expanding to add giraffes and lions in the future, so we wouldn't hesitate to take him back!

Chattanooga just has so much to offer.  If we'd had more time, we would have loved to stop by the Creative Discovery Museum or the Hunter Museum of American Art.  

We love Chattanooga, and it's a great place for families!

Monday, May 6, 2019

Boston, Massachusetts

I took a work trip to Boston for three nights, and it was probably the longest stretch of time I've spent in what is truly a very cool city.

Flying over the city, walking near my hotel

My conference was at the Westin in Copley Square, a beautiful hotel that has restaurants and shops and a skywalk to the nearby mall.  I loved the mixture of historic and modern architecture in the area.

Copley Square area

On my first afternoon/evening, I walked to The Salty Pig for lunch.  I had their Salty Pig pizza with salted pork, pale ale caramel, and arugula, but subbed tomato sauce for the mustard... so good!  Then I walked to Flour Bakery + Cafe at the behest of my cousin's reco and grabbed a sticky bun.  In the evening, I connected with some college classmates in Southie for a nice night in.  (I was fortunate to have friends and family to connect with each evening I was there!)

The second night, I took the T to Fenway to meet my cousin for dinner at Wahlburgers!  I had the BBQ Bacon burger with white cheddar, bacon, housemade BBQ sauce & avocado spread (I skipped the jalapeños), and it was delicious.  The tater tots were also awesome.  It was a really good burger spot, and the decorations were very Boston and Wahlburg (movie posters everywhere) at the same time.


I also got to see my friend Lindsey on my trip to Boston!  I've been wanting a Louis Vuitton Neverfull for years now (yes, I'm basic, deal with it) and since Linds has her own collection, I figured it would be fun to shop together.  I chose a "damier ebene" canvas with the "rose ballerine" interior color.  Our salesgirl Athena truly made it a magical experience for this first-timer.  Is it normal or practical to spend so much on a handbag?  Probably not.  But if that's what you want in order to reward yourself for a milestone, I say there's no time like the present!

We finished the night with Italian food at Sorellina, where I had a delicious meatless bolognese (the Impossible Foods stuff!) and dessert so good that we didn't take pictures of it.  We had a slumber party at the hotel that night before I had to leave early in the morning.

I love Boston, and I need to spend more time there.  I want to explore more historic landmarks, the architecture, the food...  so much!  I could spend a week there and still leave things undone.

Do you have any Boston recommendations in case I go back?

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Nashville Food Tour

Sometimes it's fun to play tourist in your own local area.  That's exactly what I did for a work event with coworkers!  We took a private food tour with Dabble Studio in Germantown and explored a multiple neighborhoods and types of Nashville classic fare.

We started off with hot chicken at the Listening Room Cafe, which moved to SoBro (South of Broadway neighborhood) a couple of years ago.  It's a great music venue, and the food was food too!  I've heard it's the kind of place serious music listeners visit, i.e. don't talk while the music is playing.

Our next stop was East Nashville, to get a bushwacker at 3 Crow Bar.  The bushwacker is the unofficial cocktail of Nashville, but I'd never had one before this tour.  I know, I know... I've lived here for seven years, what gives?  I'd heard that is was like an adult Frosty, and I'm not a chocolate person. But it's a delicious boozy milkshake that everyone should try at least once, and the liquor sneaks up on your fast.

Also in East Nashville, we had a sampler of hot dogs (and soda!) at I Dream of Weenie, probably one of the most Instagrammed spots on that side of town.  I loved the Cheerwine, which is such a Southern thing.

And it wouldn't be Nashville if we didn't stop at a mural for a photo opp!  Seriously, the number of murals in Nashville is insane.  I once did a post about visiting a bunch with my friend B, but now there are so many more... I love Kristin Luna's post about them with so many I haven't visited.

It wouldn't be a Nashville tourist

I had to leave the tour before the final two stops, because I had to get home to pick up Kenny at daycare.  But after I left, they hit up one of the best BBQ joints in town (Martin's Bar-B-Que in Belmont) and got dessert at Colts Chocolates in the Gulch.  Talk about a great way to spend an afternoon!

I'd definitely recommend you check out a food tour if you're coming to Nashville; this one hits so many different neighborhoods (they give you history and trivia along the way) and is a great way to enjoy a taste of Music City.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Little Rock, Arkansas

In the fall, I started a new role at work, which means I get to do more of something that I really enjoy... hitting the road for customer meetings and other events!  I've already done a quick day trip down to Fort Lauderdale (literally, I flew down and back in the same day), and recently I hit the road to Northwest Arkansas for a meeting.  Since it was a rather long road trip, we broke it up by stopping in Little Rock going to and from Nashville!

Outside of Little Rock, we headed to De Valls Bluff for one of my coworker's favorite BBQ joints: Craig's Bar-B-Q.  Craig's is a cash-only, family-run dive that is absolutely a gem.  Look, it's not fancy.  At all.  But we watched a steady stream of locals taking food away the entire time we were there, and we were able to get four sandwiches (three BBQ, one grilled cheese) and drinks for under $20.  For real. 

Craig's BBQ

Craig's is one of those road trip detours that is absolutely worth the trek!  The pork is sliced vs. pulled (sort of the thickness/consistency of brisket) with homemade sauce.  We got it spicy, and it's served with a slaw inside.  I'm not even a slaw person, and I loved it.

On our return trip back through Little Rock, we decided to go a different direction foodwise... Asian noodles and dumplings!  We hit up Three Fold downtown and got soup noodle bowls, dumplings, and a steam bun to sample the goods.

Little Rock (and its environs) impressed us foodwise, and there were a bunch of places I wish I could have tried.  But we also tried to see some cool sights!  We drove by the State Capitol at night and it was gorgeous.  They had great statues and monuments around it, and it was beautifully lit.

We also did a quick walk-through of the Clinton Presidential Library & Museum.  Regardless of your politics, I think visiting Presidential libraries and museums is pretty cool... it's like walking into a time capsule of a President's time in office.

President Clinton is one of the first Presidents that I remember, so it was kind of cool to look at the technology, the news headlines and major events, and more that happened from 1993 to 2001.  I really enjoyed the full scale replicas of the Oval Office and Cabinet Room, and seeing Cadillac One.

I also enjoyed seeing artifacts, gifts, and decor from the Clinton White House.  There were saxophones, china settings, letters, even a white Chihuly Christmas tree!

I wish we'd had time for a guided tour, but maybe next time!  It was really fun to blaze through before hitting the road back home.  These types of road trip stops remind of how much there is to see in America and its "flyover states".  I usually fly when I travel, focusing on my destinations.  On this trip, I enjoyed focusing on the journey and figuring out things along the way off the cuff!

Thank you, Little Rock!

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Kenny's 1st Birthday Party 돌

I'm going to be honest with you... I never thought I'd throw a big 1st birthday party for my kid.  But then, when I was pregnant, I was discussing with my Mom how it might be nice to give Kenny a traditional Korean first birthday celebration (call a dol or 돌), even if it was just close family.  My wonderful relatives in Korea gifted us a beautiful traditional outfit (called hanbok) for him to wear, and our minds were made up... we'd be having a party!

For the party, we decorated a table with a lot of symbolic elements.  A traditional table for a dol celebration includes a number of elements, but in general, it represents hope for a bountiful future.  For Kenny's table, we had food to represent abundance, color to represent a bright and vivid future, and circles for generosity and life without hardship.  My Mom made sure that there were odd numbers (lucky!) of fruit and lots of homemade rice cakes.  I made his birthday cake and ordered decorations and party gear online.  My Mom, sister, and I made bean towers with Kenny's name spelled in Korean script and "Happy Dol".  These cost like $200-300 on Etsy, so we DIYed them ourselves for like $25.

More than 50 friends and family from six states joined us for Kenny's party, which included traditional Korean first birthday elements including a doljabi (돌잡이).

The highlight of the Korean dol (돌) is a custom called the doljabi (돌잡이) where the child is placed in front of a tray of objects and encouraged to pick one. It is believed the object the child selects will foretell the child's future.  We also had a raffle where guests could guest which object Kenny would pick, and the winner would get a Korean children's book.

Kenny picked a medallion, which symbolizes "high position" in life, such as political figure or other achievements.  He grabbed the ball next (athleticism), and then the yarn (long life).

For food, we had both American and Korean dishes, but the Korean food was a big hit!  We had bulgogi, japchae, and bibimbap from Soy Bistro.  I wish I'd taken photos, but it was so delicious it was devoured before I remembered!

We also had family portraits and party photos captured by our friend Steve Cross, who has captured so many special memories of our family's life.  Dan's mother, my parents, and my sister were a huge part of the weekend too, making the party run as smoothly as possible along with Dan and me.

That said, I think next year for his 2nd birthday, we'll just do a little cake at home and maybe something fun as a little family.  I love the Korean tradition of a big 1st birthday as something truly special to cap off that first year in the world.  He'll have a party again someday, maybe when he's old enough to ask for one!
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