Can It Fit On The Back Of A Camel?

photos by Elizabeth Atalay

 

When I think of spring-cleaning, and my desire to purge our home of unnecessary belongings, I always think back to Razi.  Razi was a local Bedouin, who led my mother and me on a camel trek through the Negev Desert over twenty years ago.  I can still picture my mother, perched atop a camel like the Queen of Sheba. She bobbed and wobbled with each of its steps, letting out squeals of delight and fear as we progressed deeper into the Desert. Razi told me that my mother reminded him of his own, with her enthusiasm and adventurous spirit, even in her later years. Until that day my knowledge of the Bedouins and their life was limited to what I had seen from my narrow tourist perspective. What looked to me like meager tent camps dotted the dusty stretches of land along the Israeli roads. When we stopped anywhere near these communities, we were instantly swarmed by smudged Bedouin children with outstretched hands. I felt terrible for them. From what I could tell, they had no homes, received no education and clearly lived in poverty. As our camels plodded along, Razi spoke about life in the desert and life as a Bedouin. He easily navigated the desolate terrain, and described it as full of life if you knew where to look. He explained that the Bedouin are expert trackers.  He spoke of following the stars and planets like a map in the night sky. He told us about Bedouin poetry and the tradition of oral history. Much of this knowledge, he said, had been traditionally passed on to him, as it was to all Bedouin children. As Razi spoke,  my idea of the Bedouins being uneducated seemed increasingly inane. It dawned on me that being well educated is subject to individual cultures.  I became highly aware that I would perish quickly if left on my own in this environment, despite my university edification. When we stopped for our midday meal, he baked us flatbread with ingredients from his camel pack. He brewed some sweet tea on the fire, and as we drank together, he told us how he pitied us with our burdens and responsibilities. Razi loved his life of freedom, and, to him, possessions only meant entrapment. He had a point. He said that it would be a nightmare for him to own more than he could fit on the back of his camel, thus inhibiting him from the nomadic life that he loved.   At that time in my life I did not own much, and I did not return home and sell all my worldly goods. I did bring back new understanding: that the world is seen through a lens unique to each person within his or her own culture.  This spring, as I part with some of  the things in our culture we aspire to collect, I think of it as unburdening our home, freeing ourselves, if even a tiny bit, from so much stuff.

(This article as seen in part in The Baltimore Sun Sunday Travel section)

 

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Waterfire Providence: A sight to see, hear, and smell……

If you live in Rhode Island or if you are just visiting, then Waterfire Providence is an event you won’t want to miss.  It’s easy to live in a place and not do all the wonderful things around you because “it’s just there and you can do it anytime.”  I grew up in the Washington, D.C. area and did not even see the changing of the guard in Arlington Cemetery until I had moved to Oklahoma (and was back visiting family in D.C.).  You definitely seem to do more when you are a sightseer instead of a resident; sad I know.

I am glad I visited the Waterfire Providence last night (I had my mom in town wanting to do something).  I’ve lived in Rhode Island for three years and this was my first time seeing it.  It was a partial lighting and it was a cool,rainy, and very foggy night, so it kept a few people away from the event I’m sure (but not us!).  I think it was actually nice going to see it without a big crowd.  The waterfire event did live up to my expectations.  I had heard it’s an event for all your senses, and it truly was.  You could see the  beautiful water lit up with fire, hear the wonderful crackling of the burning wood and gorgeous music being played, and you could smell the wood burning just as it smells walking around the streets of Williamsburg, VA on a cool fall/winter evening.


Come visit this wonderful event; residents and visitors alike!  There is also food/drink, entertainment, art displays, etc.  Last night we saw fire shows on the boats, and human statues posing (just like you would see walking the streets of many European cities).  I’m sure a full lighting event would  have even more to offer than I saw last night at the partial lighting.  I will definitely be back for another lighting.  Check out the Waterfire Providence 2011 Lighting Schedule and come on out for a night of fun and culture.  It would be a nice family event if you don’t mind having the kids out a little late, or you can just make it a date night with your significant other.  I’ll probably see you there!

* Have you been to Waterfire Providence?  If so, what were your impressions of the event?  Are you hoping to make a trip to see it if you haven’t been?

Kristin Wheeler

The Pick Up Artist: A girl looking for girlfriends

Photo by Bob Packert

I rushed into my husbands’ arms when he came home from work, planted a kiss, and announced,  “Honey! I picked up a woman at the zoo today!”  Now, I know what you are thinking, but please don’t judge me, it was a moment of desperation.  You see, we had moved to a new state a couple of months before, neither of us knowing a soul.  We enjoyed exploring on the weekends together, but during the week, while he went to work, and engaged with other adults, I was keeping company with our 4 year old, 2 year old and 3 month old.  The most sophisticated conversations I had in a typical day contained words like boo boo and sippy cup.  As you might imagine by the time my husband walked through that door in the evening, I tackled him with pent up conversation, plans to go out, or threw the screaming, kids at him, and hid.  I knew that these were not the greatest receptions from long days of work.  I also knew what I needed.  Girlfriends.

It had been much easier to make friends in school, at work, or in playgroup, but as an adult with none of the outlets listed available, I found myself at a loss.  That day I had been at the Zoo with aforementioned children, and noticed a woman at the Terrapin tank.  She was pretty, and fashionably dressed, but what attracted me to her, were the two children by her side.  They looked to be similar ages to my two oldest, so I made my move.  I walked away from my children, and sidled up the Terrapin tank (not unlike a bar, sans hair flip), then called them over.   “Look, it’s a Diamondback turtle!” I exclaimed, sounding a bit too loud and excited, but sure enough, my children rushed over, and the other kids looked up at me.  Their mother now noticed me too.  I took my opportunity, and struck up conversation.  It turned out we only lived a few streets apart, and as our kids began to chatter about the turtles, we exchanged numbers to set up a play date. I was elated! I had a friend!

Years later, I have friends here whom I cherish, and feel like I’ve always known, but I think back to how I got to this point, and remember that void . The process seemed not terribly unlike dating, Searching out another soul looking to connect.  Wanting, no, hoping, to be attractive, and interesting enough for them to want to see you again. There have been good play dates and bad.  Women along the way who were charming, but turned out to be just like those charismatic bad boys who had once seemed so alluring.  Hurtful, and untrue. There were women who I met already with a close-knit group, not looking to add friends to their lives. There were also pleasant surprises, finding the most genuine, funny and caring friend I could wish for in someone who had flown under my radar.    I joined all the playgroups, book clubs, and parent teacher groups I could, and through it all friends with common interests filtered through and filled my life in a way that only good girlfriends can.    Now if my husband is pounced on when he gets home from a long day at work, it is more likely a joyous child, than a disgruntled wife.  A more welcome reception indeed .

 

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Family–and Solo–Fun in New England

With my youngest of four off to Kindergarten, I find myself for the first time in twelve years with actual free time.    Since having kids I have dreamed of a quiet house all to myself, and some days find the idleness that I might have found lonely or boring before, a luxury.  As a busy mom I can multitask like a Tasmanian devil, and give me a few hours with no kids, whew, I can accomplish a lot!   Most days that is, but some days, I must confess, I lose all sense of time management.   I get overwhelmed by all of the possibilities of the things I should be/could be doing with that precious time.   The next thing I know I have fritted away a whole day doing nothing but magazining.   I decided to make a list, of things that I know will feed my soul, for a girl can not live on food shopping, dishes, and laundry in her free time alone. 

The Chihuly exhibit at the Boston Museum of fine Arts. Chihuly’s glass sculpture work is fantastical, whimsical, and like stepping into another world.  Since it is an all glass exhibit, this is definitely something to do without the children. April 10-August 7th

The RISD student/Alumni art sale on Benefit Street in Providence. My inner artist is always inspired by these affordable, creative, and unique finds outdoors on historic Benefit Street.  Find great accessories, jewelry, house wares & art.   There is a sale every Spring, Winter (at the convention center in Providence) and Fall.

Waterfire

April 27th kicked off the season.  I swear this is one of the most magical experiences.  My husband has humored my fantasy of sitting along the edge of the river while holding hands, soaking in the bonfires, and drinking a glass of wine so many times, that he has threatened to push me in the river if I make him do it again.

Wickford Art Festival. July 9th & 10th the charming seaside village of Wickford in North Kingstown, RI hosts hundreds of artists selling their paintings, photographs and sculptures.  Great art deals, and the inspiration of seeing so much creativity gathered in one gorgeous setting makes this a fantastic event.

Green Animal Topiary Gardens Children’s Party. With the feel of an English garden party a la Alice in Wonderland, this one you have to bring your kids with you.   I love the fact that along with the juice and cookie table for kids, free with admission, wine for the grown-ups is also offered.  The topiary garden is right out of Edward Scissorhands, and rolling green lawn leads to a water view.  Bring a blanket and purchase from their BBQ for dinner. Pony rides, a bouncy house, and amazing performances by the likes of the Big Apple Circus and the Toe Jam Puppet band are sure to keep the kids enthralled. July 14th 4-8pm. Get there early for good parking. 380 Corys Lane Portsmouth, RI 02871-1324 – (401) 683-1267

 

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Doing Disney World with a Toddler

Strollers are a must for a young toddler at Disney.

I grew up an hour from Disney World and went to the parks far less than my husband did as a Rhode Islander.  His family made the trek to the parks every year and absolutely LOVE parks.  I am less excited about theme parks, but since it is important to my husband we decided to brave Disney World with our 16 month old son this year.

I’ve always thought 16 months was way too young for a park, but you know what? It isn’t. My son had the time of his life for the two and a half days we were in Orlando. The keys to our success were this: stay at a hotel at the Magic Kingdom, go to the park EARLY, plan which rides are suitable for a toddler before your trip and book a character breakfast.

Staying at the Magic Kingdom is more expensive, but you can save money by booking in the off season. If you only have a toddler, don’t go school vacation week: prices double at hotels during this time. The park also raises prices across the board for busy weeks. The main reason I loved staying at the Magic Kingdom (we chose Wilderness Lodge this year) was convenience and the fact if my little guy needed a nap I could get him home in minutes and the rest of our group could stay at the park.

I am not a morning person, but my son is up bright and early between 6 and 6:30 am every day. Another benefit of staying at a Disney hotel is the Extra Magic Hour you receive- you can get into all of their parks one hour before the rest of the park-goers! This is huge with a toddler because you can get to all of the popular rides for them with little to no wait. We made a bee-line to the Winnie the Pooh ride and had less than a 10 minute wait. My son’s favorite ride was the carousel, which he asked to go on “more please” repeatedly. If you’re a night owl, you can also stay later at the park with your hotel key– which could be fun if you have family to babysit or your child is old enough for Disney babysitting.

My husband had the trip thoroughly planned out with what rides were appropriate for our son and had a plan. You can download apps for ride wait times and other Disney tips for your smart phone to make your trip more efficient. We checked out the web site MouseSavers and learned some great Disney World tips and tricks.Micky waffle

My last suggestion for toddler Disney fans is to book a character breakfast. We booked a late morning breakfast at the Polynesian hotel and my little guy absolutely loved meeting Stitch, Mickey, Pluto & Lilo. He wasn’t scared a bit and wanted to chase the characters around the restaurant!

If you were considering taking your toddler to Disney, I say do it! This is coming from a non-park loving, “not a big Disney fan” Mom. Seeing the joy in my son’s face was priceless and he had a fantastic time! Disney might have finally won me over!

What are your tips for traveling with a toddler?

 

Travels to France’s Wine Country

I just returned back home after a week-long journey to France’s wine country. Part of my job as a working mom and wine shop owner is to travel to vineyards in the U.S. and abroad to visit with the great wine estates that I work with and represent at the shop. This trip was amazing– but ever so busy– visiting a different wine region and changing hotels each day. We visited in this order – Alsace, Champagne, Sancerre, Puligny Montrachet, Pouilly, Fuisse and the northern Rhone.  This trip was probably one of the best I have ever had.

Each day I spent time in the vineyards with the owners and winemakers studying the soil, in the winery understanding the  producing processes and of course finishing up with a tasting. The tasting often consists of sampling 10-15 different wines. Of course I am not drinking them. I swish and swirl in the mouth and then spit out. Not too lady like sounding but that is part of the job; otherwise I wouldn’t be able to do the job. I tasted Champagne and wine as far back as 1973 and 1976 respectively – wow, I was only 2 and 5 then.

At Olivier Leflaive with Patrick Leflaive & Winemaker Franck

I was the only person from RI (well except for my supplier) who was asked to go on the trip and was the only woman, which made it all the more interesting. This actually happens frequently since the wine industry is quite male dominated. However the industry has changed over the last 20 years with more women representing part of the pie or should I say wine.

My background hasn’t always been in wine. I worked in the public relations world for some time, before deciding to make a change and dive head first into a life centered around a passion – wine and food. I love the jump I made, my career and helping people find the best wines for them.  Not once have I ever looked back.

Despite that I love what I do and the great travel opportunities that accompany my career, I always struggle when I get on the plane and leave my 3-year old daughter. I worry that she is sad and feel that I have abandoned her. As a woman who considers herself intelligent, I know rationally this is not the case. I am certain that it’s harder on me than it is her, especially when I have planned her days full of activities so she won’t have as much down time to realize I am gone.  But no matter if it is the 3rd or 20th time that I have gone away, the departure is never easy.

Tell me your thoughts. Do you ever have these feelings when you leave your children whether for work or vacation?

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Memorable Moments of Mom 2.0 (Part 1)

NOLA Ritz

NOLA Ritz, locale for Mom 2.0

 Life is about memorable moments. Creating them. Savoring them. Replicating them.  (It never hurts to try.) As Mom 2.0 approached, and the talk on twitter, facebook, and email peaked leading up to the 3 day conference,  my excitement increased. I knew I would learn a massive amount of information. The ingenuity, creativity, dedication, and passion of women like Kimberly Blaine, Jyl Pattee, Emily McKhann, Andrea Wishom, Liz Gumbinner, Beth Lemanach is knock your socks off inspiring. I honestly don’t know how you guys do it. While I only dropped named a few names, truth is—every single person I met during Mom 2.0 moved me in some way. I left every conversation thirsty for additional knowledge, empowered, and excited to do more. Faster. Better. Smarter. I wondered how on earth I was going to manage it all, plus a full time career as a TV Anchor.  The content at Mom 2.0 is top notch. I was often torn as to which breakout session to attend. The New Style: Bloggers, Brands and the Post Review & Giveaway Era or Video, Multimedia and Monetization: How Video Can Realistically Raise your Visibility and Credibility??   Creating and Building Influence or Personal Brand Building: Real-time Coaching and Brainstorming on Building Your Personal Brand and Where it Can Intersect with Big Brands??  Ultimately, I discovered it was the people BEHIND the message, more than the message itself that stayed with me…and THAT’S what making memorable moments is all about. The bonds you create with people. The lasting friendships, and partnerships. Conferences allow brands, bloggers, and PR folks to see the REAL you, not the person hiding behind the computer screen. On several of the headers on my site I have three words that I was happy to hear often throughout Mom 2.0. Authentic. Engaging. Approachable. More Mom 2.0 posts are to come, but if someone were to ask me to describe the people and discussions at the conference, I would describe them quite simply with the words we live by at  A Mom Knows Best.   Authentic. Engaging. Approachable.

Looking for Love in Unusual Places

     As single ladies this day and age… we look for any sort of clue or sign that love is coming our way soon. Well, at least my friends and I do. So while in Las Vegas for a girls weekend… my jaded single New York friend and I took our search to a “higher” level…a psychic!  We called our hotel concierge to see if they could suggest a somewhat reputable psychic… they told us about someone way off the strip… which sounded like too much work for us. We then casually blew off the idea and decided to continue on our search for love on our own. However, the higher powers had another plan for us. We went into O’Shea’s which,  if you don’t know,  is a cheap sort of college way to gamble in Las Vegas… and low and behold… there was an in-house psychic. It was a clear sign… or a coincidence… but I am going with a sign!

psychic

     We each sat down, dropped $40 bucks and were ready to find out when/if we are going to find love!!   Kileen (our psychic) sat us down… we meditated and then she started flipping her cards. Kileen had an accurate reading about me. She told me I was hurt in the past and I was still getting over a bad relationship… blah, blah, blah. Yes, somewhat true. I did have a bad relationship in the past,  but I think I pretty much over it. I mean do I hold grudges… yes, but what girl who was burned by a boy in the past doesn’t hold him in a negative light??

     I starting to think my psychic reading was more like a therapy session… shouldn’t I be at least laying down on a couch or something. Every time I tried to throw out a question she continued to ramble on about finding the true me and being more self-confident. Good point.  I will definitely work on it but tell me if my Mr. Right,  father of my future adorable children is out there!! Long story short… my fifteen minutes of psychic fame were over and I had zero answers about my future! Was this a sign I am meant to be alone… FOREVER?!

     As Kileen tried to politely kick me out of her beaded tent I asked the questions I needed to know.  Is he out there for me and will I have kids???  Her answer: Yes and you’ll have two kids. That was it. Whatever, I will take it. My silly girl brain needed that reassurance (even if it was forced and very brief) that maybe happily ever after is out there and waiting for me. I guess time will only tell!

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Getting Gorgeous in New York City

New York City

It’s going to be a fun weekend. Today, several of the contributors and I are piling in Carrie’s SUV and heading to New York City where we will meet up with Katrina for a day of fashion, fun & beauty…oh, and pampering!  Two of my friends are putting on a spectacular event in the city called Getting Gorgeous, and it is going to be fabulous!  Audrey McClelland & Vera Sweeney are the masterminds behind the event and, to be honest, I’ve never even met Vera before–but any friend of Audrey’s is a friend of mine.

This will actually be my first “event” as a blogger and I can speak for all of the ladies of  A Mom Knows Best when I say we are thrilled to get a little R&R, meet some other wonderful women and engage with the terrific brands that will be in attendence.  I really have to give Audrey & Vera  a hand for choosing terrific companies to allign themselves with.  We’re talking Degree, Lifetime Moms, Hanes, Sandals Resorts (BTW, who else is DYING for a vacation after our recent snow in New England?) Weight Watchers & Goody Hair…just to name a few!dad NYC

After hanging with the girls all day, my husband and baby will pick me up and we’ll spend the night with our good friends who have a daughter just two weeks younger than Paige.  The babies always have such a great time together and it’s so fun to see them interact!  Sunday I have a business lunch at a great little restaurant I’ve been dying to try, right by the water, before heading back to Rhode Island.  Crossing my fingers that Paige sleeps a little in the car.  She’s typically good for about an hour…that’s it.  Maybe it’s time to invest in one of those portable DVD players…although since she’s never seen a movie it might kind of freak her out.

How a Family RV Trip for 6 Became one of our Best Vacations

Have you ever thought of taking a family vacation in an RV?  Did you end up doing it?  Last year we were coming off the “year of unemployment” and taking the idea of any spending very seriously.  So when April vacation was being considered we tried to think of a fun and inexpensive way to see a lot of places in a week.  We figured it would be wise to stay on the east coast so as to minimize the amount of miles logged and to maximize our destinations.  The first task at hand was finding an RV.  There are websites that exist for just that purpose.  One of the biggest is: Cruise America.  We ended up using Craigslist and found a local man who rents his RV by the week.  Perfect.

The cost for a week using Cruise America for a large 7 person RV is roughly $1050 with mileage costs at about $.32 a mile.  700 miles is easy to do in a week, and that would run another $224.  We paid the private owner from Craigslist $1000 and no mileage fee – just brought it back with a full tank of gas.  One of the options our guy gave us was to rent his kitchen equipment for $150, the items of which he listed in detail.  In an effort to be frugal we passed on the offer and used his list to create our own ‘kitchen to go’.  Personally, I will always prefer my own utensils and pans to someone else’s unless maybe it’s Martha Stewart.  Cruise America offers a Kitchen Kit for $100 and a Personal Kit (towels and a sleeping bag, etc.) for $50.

Our trip began to take shape.  We decided to pick up the RV and leave our car at the owner’s house for the week.  When we arrived to “move in” there was a binder of all kinds of information he’d compiled over the years of renting, and we referenced that often.  At first the rig was very intimidating, especially in its width.  It turned out that the RV was a little on the quirky side maybe due to its older age, and responded to its Master’s Voice better than ours, but we managed.  There were a lot of gadgets and buttons to activate to get a shower, or to cook, so there was a steep learning curve in the beginning.  There’s nothing like a cold shower to motivate one to figure out the system, though.Cold shower

The fun part was narrowing down all the grand ideas we had for our destinations.  The kids lobbied hard for a stop at Hershey Park, PA, so my husband and I wove that into a generally educational itinerary (sneaky, huh?) including Gettysburg, PA and Washington D.C.  We eventually headed back to RI through NYC.  The trick was to find decent RV parks near the cities, and public transportation into them.  We tried RV parks with public bathrooms that had showers and pools, laundry and miniature golf, as well as ones in the dark woods with nothing but water and gas hookups and lots of crickets.  AAA has excellent RV books that tell you just what to expect from each park.  We played a lot of board games at night, and each of us probably read a book or two that week.  All the parks have grills, so cooking was a breeze, and s’mores were the staple dessert.S'mores

If you ask the kids, this trip was epic, and if you ask my husband and me, this is one we would definitely do again.  There’s a lot to be said for staying on terra firma, besides just the significant savings on airfare.

Echo Caverns

Echo Caverns

An interesting road sign could turn into an impromptu adventure, like the awe inspiring Echo Caverns we happened upon, or at least a good ice cream cone.  We’re thinking of a summer RV trip through Canada next.  Well, we’ll see you on the road, and happy trails!

Are there any of you RV adventurers out there with a good tale, tip, or destination to share?  I’d love to hear about it in the comment section below.

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