Tuesdays for Tots!

Yesterday was a looonnngggg day. It was mostly good, but it could have been great had it not been for a touch of mastitis (yup, again), a sick Luna and a night of zero sleep. Yesterday, I babysat for a friend of mine. You may remember mentioning an adorable 4-year-old boy who goes by Parker. Parker spent all day with me and Luna and he taught us many things: differences between boys and girls, the best Superheroes, how to quickly make new friends and of course, how exhausting life would be with two kids. Also, how fun life would be to watch two kids grow and play together. Thankfully, Nashville has many activities around town to keep little ones busy…Cheekwood was our activity of choice.

Every Tuesday, Cheekwood offers adventures in art for toddlers (Tuesdays for Tots). After my experience I’d say it’s appropriate for about 1-5 year olds. They have a studio in the Learning Center where a new craft is setup each week. We were lucky enough to show up for Van Gogh week. They displayed pictures of Starry Night, laid out materials, handed out canvas and encouraged kids to create their own version of The Starry Night. I think Parker was more inspired by Spider Man than Van Gogh, but once I started mimicking the painting, he quickly did too.

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After a while in the Learning Center, we brought our paintings out to dry and before I could finish setting them on top of the car to dry, Parker had already made friends at the train table. Outside of the Learning Center are lots of different toys and activities set up for kids. We played with trains, dug in the dirt, practiced sharing and used a dumpster. He was pretty entranced until he heard that there was an even bigger cooler train that actually moved just down the hill. It’s a miracle I got him to wait for me and Luna before he sprinted across the roadway to the trains.


Every kid loves trains. The train set at Cheekwood is so nice! There are two trains that move through tunnels, under bridges, over hills and past towns. Plus, one train is led by none other than Thomas the Train. Parker was entranced for a good 15 minutes. He just could not believe that Thomas was there. The next activity on his list was “something to climb”.

watching the trains together
watching the trains together

We walked the trails until we came to the playhouse that luckily has stairs that lead up to a tree house. We were so busy at this house that I didn’t even have a moment to snap any photos. There are tons of kids on Tuesdays for Tots and Parker very quickly made friends with everyone who climbed into the tree house. They pretended to be superheroes and protected me and Luna from bad guys, we “locked” all the doors and windows to keep us safe from tornadoes and we almost played Ninja Turtles, but then decided that super heroes are like way better.

He just HAD to push the stroller
He just HAD to push the stroller

After myself and another Mother pried the boys away from each other, we said goodbye to our new friends and went our separate ways to have lunch. I packed a picnic and I let Parker pick the perfect spot in the grass for us to sit and enjoy our food. After hiking down the hill with two large bags, a baby and a stroller, and unloading, he then announced he had to pee. After explaining to him why could not pee outside at Cheekwood (while other families picnicked around us), we re-packed, hiked back up the hill and found a toilet. After, repeating everything once more, we finally sat down for lunch. We have had extremely abnormal weather the last week and so it was actually warm and sunny enough to sit outside and eat. It didn’t take Parker long to finish his food and take off again. Thankfully, there was plenty for him to do right around us. He ran around a pond, climbed a mini rock wall, played under a larger tree and ran down the hills as fast as he could. Luna and I enjoyed eating ALL the food he left behind and watching him run wild.

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We spent a good 3 hours enjoying Cheekwood. It was the perfect place to spend a sunny day with a 4-year-old and a baby. Luna may have been sickly, but she did enjoy watching Parker play and even walking around a little after our picnic. The rest of the afternoon was spent playing at a playground, eating ice cream, watching a terribly boring Spider Man cartoon movie and playing with Lego’s. And, when the day was over, this Mommy with a sore boob was ready for a nap! (Oh and BTW, I totally drove off with the two Van Gogh paintings on the roof of my car. Woops.)

Thanks Cheekwood, for letting us come play. We had blast and we will be back!


Giant Bugs That Don’t Terrify Me


We spent our Saturday at Cheekwood Art & Gardens. It was our first visit in a year. We love Cheekwood and I CANNOT believe it’s been an entire year since we went to “Light. This summer’s trip instantly beat out last years because this trip included Luna. My in-laws, Husband, myself and Luna all spent the warm summer afternoon walking around the gardens, the mansion and the really cool sculptures.

This little girl loved playing in the bamboo.
This little girl loved playing in the bamboo.

The most prominent part of Cheekwood this summer is the giant bug sculptures exhibit. There are huge wooden bugs scattered throughout the grounds, all made of wood and some our even large enough to explore. There is a beehive, a treehouse and an enormous butterfly that everyone is actually allowed to touch, climb, swing and slide down. And, by everyone, I mean adults too.




We pushed the stroller around, but only to carry our bags, water and camera because Luna wanted to be carried around so she could look at the world. It was a hot Saturday, but luckily we found lots of shade to sit and relax. Luna even got to dip her feet in one of the water gardens.


Besides the giant wooden bugs there was also a crazy stick house created by Patrick Dougherty. The house was created on the property and is made of all sticks and twigs tangled together.


Thank God there is a mansion in the middle of the gardens to offer some relief from the 93 degree weather. The Cheekwood mansion is always lovely by itself, but it also holds different art exhibits throughout the year. It’s currently hosting Andy Warhol silkscreen painting of flowers, and I swear they’ve never looked so beautiful as they did in the air conditioner that day. Luna seemed to really enjoy walking around and gazing at all the photos with her Grandma.

These are, of course, real flowers, not painting, but taking photos of the paintings is forbidden.
These are, of course, real flowers, not paintings, but taking photos of the paintings is forbidden.

There’s just so much to look at in the Gardens we saw a crazy outdoor train set, the Japanese gardens, the herb garden, the dogwood garden and more. Then there’s lots more we didn’t even get to this time around. I guess we will just have to go back and maybe pack a picnic basket next time.

our family

For my local friends (or my traveling friends) keep in mind that Cheekwood has extended hours on Friday nights and several other summer events for the whole family. It’s beautiful there, seriously, you don’t want to miss it. In fact, if you go, let me know, maybe we can meet you there!



Good Times in Chicago


We only had a few days to spend in the windy city during our recent visit, and like any trip, we spent every second soaking up the city and making the best of the time we had. My cousin’s wedding is what brought us to Chicago, which means I got to enjoy the city with my parents and a few other family members too.

Even though the daytime was spent running from Grant Park to the Magnificent Mile we still managed to have a great time and see A LOT of the city.

fountain chicago
Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park

architectural tour

One morning we took one of Chicago’s famous boat tours down the Chicago River and into Lake Michigan. The Wendella Boat Tour took us around and told us the history of Chicago, the history of many of its skyscrapers and several entertaining stories…like where Ferris Bueler was filmed and the fact that a guy dressed like Spider Man once shimmied his way up the side of Willis Tower. There’s also a bar on the first floor of the boat that provides just about every drink…hot chocolate for me.

wendella big buildings

on a boat

We even made time to go to the top of Willis Tower. Willis Tower  (formerly know as Sears Tower) has what they call “Skydecks”. The Skydecks are glass boxes off the side of the 104th floor. It’s pretty funny to watch people slowly creep out on the clear floors, scared to look below them. It’s even funnier (and a little embarrassing) to watch their faces when Husband walks out and begins jumping up and down, as carefree as can be.

willis tower skybox


One of my favorite stops was at the Art Institute. One of the current exhibits at this museum is “Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity“. This show is AMAZING. It shows how the Impressionist artists of the 19th century embraced fashion trends in their art. The exhibit not only shows some of my favorite pieces, but also displays period costumes that go with each painting! It’s perfect! This show was actually at the MET while we were living in NYC and I was so disappointed when I missed it. You can imagine how excited I was when I found out it was at the Art Institute.

Sadly, I was told "photography is not allowed" right after I took this photo at the entrance of the exhibit.
Sadly, I was told “photography is not allowed” right after I took this photo at the entrance of the exhibit.

The museum had lots of other famous art, like “American Gothic”, too.

american gothic

The rest of our time was spent enjoying the taste of Chicago. You can’t visit this city without trying the deep dish pizza and the Chicago style hotdogs at Navy Pier. We even had time for a large breakfast at Lou Mitchell’s… a world-famous breakfast joint that offers free donut holes and milk duds everyday.

deep dish
Deep dish Chicago-style pizza from Gino’s East

brunch hotdog navy pier

Now, I have to say it…New York’s pizza and hot dogs is WAY better!

Even if the food wasn’t the greatest, Chicago is still a nice getaway if you’re looking for a weekend vacation. Not only did we get to spend some time in the city with family, but we also got to visit our cousins AND a former 2005 Disney alumni!



Thanks for the good times Chicago!



Painting with Grandma

We have been vacationing over the last 3 weeks (Hilton Head, Pittsburgh, Chicago and even Tennessee…thanks to showing around our guest) and I have not been able to keep up with all of our adventures. I don’t know whether I should right about what happened last week or what we did today…there’s just too much to share!

Last week, we spent 3 days visiting our family in Pittsburgh. Husband’s Grandpa just celebrated his 84th birthday and I have not visited the family in Pennsylvania since before we lived in Albania. We were way overdue for a visit. This side of the family is a blast and a hoot. Grandpa Mike, my Father-in-law and Husband are exact replicas of each other. Grandma is a talented artist with a house so full of her artwork it is bursting at the seams. Then there’s Aunts, Uncles, cousins, second cousins, friends of the family and many pets at every corner.

Since Grandma is an artist we spend lots of time admiring not only her art, but art around the city…mostly her art though. During this trip we spent an entire day scouring the stacks of painting around her house and picking out our favorites. Husband is a fan of the abstract pieces and I prefer the realistic ones. With both our choices we are going to have a house full of unique artwork.

What we decided to take home.
What we decided to take home.
These two pieces were done during her visit to Albania while we were living there!
These two pieces were done during her visit to Albania while we were living there!
This one of her painting in one of the galleries we visited.
This one of her painting in one of the galleries we visited.
Her painted cards for sale at the gallery.
Her painted cards for sale at the gallery.

We also spent one evening getting an art lesson from Grandma in the backyard. It was 60 degrees (way too chilly for July), so we built a fire, roasted marshmallows and learned to paint with candles.

Roasting marshmallows with Grandpa.
Roasting marshmallows with Grandpa.
Grandma Kathleen teaching us what to do.
Grandma Kathleen teaching us what to do.

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The ash from the flames made the coolest designs. If I had the time I would have added some water color (like Grandma) to make an even better picture. Maybe one day… either way it turned out pretty cool.

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I’m looking forward to having Grandma Kathleen teach baby to paint and create art in a couple of years!


Car Enthusiast? Me!?

Over the weekend Husband and I decided to get a little artsy, or at least feel a little artsy. It’s only been a few weeks, but we’re already missing the MET, MOMA and the Guggenheim. We repainted some furniture, but that turned out to be not very creative work. After we finished our “artwork” we headed to Nashville’s Frist Center to enjoy some actual artwork.

The Frist Center is in downtown Nashville in what used to be Nashville’s very first post office. We used to visit fairly often when we first lived in Tennessee. I even took my classes there on field trips, but it’s been at least four years since my last trip. This weekend was an especially good weekend to visit because the new Art Deco Automobile exhibit just opened. Now, I know what you’re thinking…Hilarie? Cars? What an obvious combination!


No. I’ve never mentioned any sort of car, because I don’t give a rat’s tushy about cars, however; these cars aren’t just cars. They’re art.

To be honest, when I got the opportunity to checkout and review these cars I was not enthused. I got myself pumped up by dressing up, wearing an art deco style necklace and with coffee, of course. When I arrived, I was greeted by a very friendly woman named Ellen who is the Frist’s director of communications. She was warm, informative and just thrilled to tell us all about the new exhibit, Sensuous Steel: Art Deco Automobiles.

ellen artdeco

The cars (and motorcycles) in this exhibit are all from the 30’s and 40’s, influenced by the art deco styles and soooo pretty.


They may not be very economical and certainly not gas efficient, but who cares!? Can’t you just imagine Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart being chauffeured around town in one of these?


If you are like me, and not easily impressed by cars, let me tell you a few secrets (facts I did not know) I learned while touring this exhibit.

-Many of these cars were created in Paris. Now, imagine sitting at a little sidewalk cafe, sipping espresso, smoking a cigarette and watching these cars drive by…nice, right?


-Some of them had sunroofs! Like this 1936 Delahaye 135m Figoni and Falaschi, for example. Impessed? Who new sunroofs existed that long ago??


-Frank Lloyd Wright owned this orange 1929 Cord L-29.


-These futuristic motorcycle looks like a superhero should be drifing it, but it’s actually too heavy, impractical and hard to ride. Nice to look at though…


-The “Xenia” was named after the designer’s ex-wife, after he already re-married. Hmmm wonder how his new wife felt about this? I  liked that this car looks like a rocket ship in the back. Also, there is custom-made luggage that comes with the car! So, you know your suitcases will fit perfectly in the trunk. Genius!

xenia luggage

-Some cars have a speedometer in the backseat so the people being toted around can very easily annoy the driver and tell him he’s going too fast, or too slow. I wonder if this is when the phrase “backseat driver” was coined?


-Many of the cars were inspired by aviation. This van, which looks it has a cat face, has mobile seats and a card table. It’s meant to feel like a flight, but actually looks much roomier. It was also designed to look like a scarab. Several cars had some Egyptian influence.


Husband’s favorite car is the 1914 Chrysler  “Thunderbolt”. Only five of these cars were made, and only 4 of those have survived. It’s very rare. It has a fender that goes around the entire car and looks like it belongs in a drive-thru.

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We had a lot of fun looking at these cars and reading and hearing about their past. If you are interested in seeing this new exhibit then click here for visiting info. The Automobile exhibit closes on September 15th, but the Frist is always offering new exhibits, and activities for the whole family. *BUT, try your best to see the cars Monday-Friday. It gets very crowded on the weekends.

AND: If you check out Sensuous Steel, then you will get a discount at Nashville’s Lane Motor Museum. Just bring your ticket stub!


City of Parks

My Mom’s two requests when coming to see me in New York were, “get a bagel at H&H” and “take a walk through Central Park“. Mom has been here a few times, and these two simple activities were something she just had to do again. And, who can blame her? You can’t get a better bagel than the bagels at H&H, and Central Park is one of my favorite places in possibly the whole world. The sunniest day she was here we had a carb-filled butter breakfast at H&H, and spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon exploring parts of Central Park neither of us had been to. That’s what I love about this park, you never know where you’ll end up.

central park meandmom momarch


After eating lunch at Bergorf’s, shopping and exploring Chelsea Market, we headed back to Central Park, but this time to the North end. We got off the train in Harlem and walked south toward the Central Park Conservatory Garden and the Jackie Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. So many fragrant plants were in bloom and the water was just beautiful.

conserv resrvoir


Central Park wasn’t the only park we visited during her stay. One night, while heading towards Eataly, we accidentally found ourselves in Madison Square Park. Perfect timing too because the park had an interesting art exhibit up from now through September 8th.

redyellowblueIt’s called Red, Yellow and Blue and it was created by Orly Genger. He used 1.4 million feet of repurposed nautical rope and 3,500 gallons of paint!



It’s supposed to look like waves…combining the coastline with the city atmosphere.

redrope waterwall


We spent a long time examining the artwork before remembering we were starving for some authentic Italian food, and made our way out of the park.

I had a great time with my Mom, the best time. I’m grateful I get to show her around such a fun and beautiful city.


Brooklyn Dumbos

While making plans for the weekend we decided to spend one day at the Dumbo Art Festival that we keep seeing advertised, and one day in Brooklyn hanging out with a friend who lives in Brooklyn Heights. Little did we know that “Dumbo” is the name of a neighborhood in Brooklyn, and before we knew it we found ourselves spending the whole weekend in in the Borough we typically avoid.

We don’t have any beef with Brooklyn. In fact, it’s actually a creative and trendy neighborhood with lots of good shopping, eating, and hipster sight-seeing to do, but it’s SOOO far away, and we are SOOO spoiled to our own Manhattan neighborhood. Spending two days in Brooklyn is equivalent to spending two consecutive days at Universal Studios when you work at Disney…it just doesn’t happen.

We have only ventured into Brooklyn a handful of times so all the different neighborhoods are still puzzling and different for us. People mention names like Bushwick and Park Slope and my mind goes blank before into thoughts of Sephora and shoe shopping. Thank God for Google Maps which give us the gift of getting around easily at the touch of a button. We managed to get to Dumbo in less than half an hour, and immediately discovered Dumbo is basically in Brooklyn Heights.

The Dumbo Arts Festival presents over 500 local artists, has tons of free galleries, lots of fun projects for kids, AND is set right on the water between the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges. Our first stop was Dabney Lee, the cutest little stationary and trinket store, and stocked up on their free wine and snacks offer!

what a sweet card

Once we felt slightly tipsy and less hungry we left to explore the art world. We explored lots of local artists’ little galleries (where more free booze was given out), and then watched a performance piece that involved a bonfire in the middle of the street –I think, I did have a couple glasses of wine at this point.


a “foot bag” competition
Art in an old train car

The best part came when we discovered the park by the water. Brooklyn Bridge Park is gorgeous with some beautiful views! Plus, the park was spotted with more art and entertainment. There were Cirque type girls gracefully moving up and down column type thingy’s; there were pirate-ship bicycles, playgrounds, more art displays, and a rock-covered shore to sit and take in the views.

Lucky kids, getting to play in front of such scenic backdrop

We decided to stay in Brooklyn for dinner, which was three orders of fries at Five Guys. Saturday in Brooklyn was great, so great that we agreed to go back on Sunday. Tune in tomorrow for another dose of a day in Brooklyn!