Tag Archives: photography

This Crazy, Beautiful Life

My seven-year-old daughter was given a homework assignment to complete over the winter break. She was asked to reflect on her greatest accomplishments of 2016 and develop a list of goals for the coming year.

Well, with a trip to Spain over the holidays, her homework was pushed aside until the very last moment. As the clock ticked away the final hours of our vacation, my daughter frantically picked up her sparkly blue pencil and rushed to work. Her answers were honest and, even with the time crunch, contemplative. She was proud of several successes in 2016: how hard she had worked in school and the fact that she had begun reading chapter books; her commitment to ballet and gymnastics which kept her active and strong throughout the year; and her go-with-the-flow attitude which served her well as she traveled to new places, making friends along the way. Her hopes for 2017 were simple, yet earnest: audition for a role in the Nutcracker ballet; read 9 books a day; learn more about animals and science so she may become a veterinarian one day; and continue to spend time with her two favorite people, mom and dad. That one was my favorite, of course.

I found her assignment inspiring. My daughter was setting goals based on her interests and growth over the previous year. She approached the exercise from a place of abundance. Oftentimes, as adults we start the new year reflecting on our perceived deficiencies – I need to do more of this, loose some of that – be different than who I am today. It is too bad, because a long the way we forget to build upon the unique strengths we already possess. And wouldn’t that be a kinder way to enter a new year?

Taking a cue from my little one, I’ve decided to use 2017 as an opportunity to set a very personal goal focused on that which I value most in this world. My family.

My goal for 2017:

Simple. I will continue to prioritize my family above all else. We will go sledding when it snows, spend Sundays making messy art projects, plant our vegetable garden in spring, travel over holiday breaks, and invite more friends into our home. We won’t wait for moments to celebrate, instead we will celebrate the little moments. And I will continue to share them here. I am also using our crazy, beautiful life as the inspiration for a book about family traditions that I will complete this year.

Dear 2016: you weren’t the easiest year – we had our ups and downs. But in the end, I thank you for the time and the tremendous memories. Here are some of my favorites…

Mara
Mara enjoying public art in Montreal
Hello Kitty
Our little one eyeing up the treats in China Town
Family Time in Nature
Enjoying a nature hike through Milwaukee’s botanical gardens
Riding the Waves
Aunt Masha and Uncle Seth taking our daughter for a ride on Lake Tahoe
Wading in the Water
Our little one braving the cold Tahoe water
A case of the sillies
My mother and brother sharing a moment in San Francisco
mara-seth
Celebrating my brother’s wedding in New Orleans
Witnessing the most beautiful wedding of 2016
Witnessing the most beautiful wedding of 2016
Kevin
Speaking of weddings, celebrating 12 years of marriage with the love of my life
Arc de Triomf in Barcelona
Spending the holidays in Barcelona
Playground 1
Enjoying a small park in Spain

My family was the inspiration for starting this blog. Entertaining Family allows me to document our adventures and the nuggets of wisdom we learn along the way. Writing about the people in my life brings me joy and I am so grateful to have a place to share my reflections. Thank you for sharing this space with me.

 

Adventures in Barcelona: The Eixample

Hey friends! Our holiday in Barcelona has been an incredible family adventure. What a beautiful city filled with great art and delicious food – two of my favorite indulgences. I recently posted about our first days abroad as we explored the Barri Gotic (or Gothic Quarter). Today I will tell you about our time in the Eixample – a neighborhood brimming with Modernist Architecture, designer shops, stylish Catalan tapas bars, and wide pedestrian boulevards. This is a very chic section of Barcelona with inspiring architecture at every turn.

We stayed in a beautiful apartment along Carrer del Rosselló, a bustling street which leads to Passeig de Gràcia in one direction (one of the main shopping avenues in Barcelona, which showcases two of Gaudi’s most famous buildings: Casa Batlló and La Pedrera), and the amazing Sagrada Familia Basilica in the other (Gaudi’s most revered architectural masterpiece which was begun in 1882 and remains under construction to this day). The organic, undulating designs of the Modernists are awe inspiring. Even children are fans, as many of the buildings give the sense of a Dr. Seuss imagined world come to life.

Our apartment rental gave us the opportunity to live as locals, as we shopped at the Mercat de la Concepció – filled with vendors specializing in fresh produce, artisan cheeses, meats and pastries, frequented nearby shops, and discovered off-the-beaten-path cafés and bars. The Eixample is perfect for families as everything is within walking distance, and there are plenty of green spaces and playgrounds for little ones.

From our apartment, we easily traversed the city by foot. Our longest walk was to Gaudi’s Park Güell – a glorious city garden which offers breathtaking views of the city – and that only took 20 minutes, not bad.

Here are some photos of our adventures in this exciting section of the city.

Passeig de Gràcia

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Our Apartment and the Eixample

Casa Terrades

La Sagrada Familia

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Park Güell

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Thank you for joining us on this joyous adventure. Do you have a favorite vacation spot? If you have ideas of where we should go next, please share them! – Entertaining Family

 

Happy Holidays from Barcelona

Hola friends! This year our family is enjoying the holidays in Barcelona, Spain. There is something wonderful about spending this time of year abroad….we get to see firsthand how another culture celebrates the season, meet new friends, try different foods, surround ourselves with great art and architecture, and spend a lot of uninterrupted time together as a family.

Our first days were spent at The Serras, a lovely five-star hotel along the waterfront with a beautiful rooftop bar and a delicious restaurant on the main floor specializing in Catalan tapas and fresh seafood. It was the perfect home base for touring some of Barcelona’s most historic sites including Ciutadella Park, La Rambla, and the Barri Gotic (the Gothic Quarter).

I have to say, after a long flight across the Atlantic, I love spending the first days of a trip in a comfortable hotel. First of all, the check-in time at most hotels can be flexible, and even if you can’t get into your room right away the concierge will keep your bags safe while you explore the city. Secondly, a hotel has amenities to pamper you after a long flight (and as you battle jet lag) – whether it is a glass of Cava at check-in, a well made bed, room service, or an in-room massage. It is nice to feel well cared for! (To keep our expenses down, and to spend time living more as locals than tourists, on day three of our trip we moved from our hotel to a wonderful apartment rental – we will feature that in our next post!)

Barcelona is a very child friendly city, and our little one was welcomed in to all restaurants, museums, and shops. Her favorite things about our first days in Spain had to be: churros and hot chocolate, the beach, the Picasso Museum, and the incredible doors found throughout the Barri Gotic. Probably in that order.

Around every corner in Barcelona there is something beautiful to behold. Whether it is the repeating arches found in doorways and stairways throughout the city, the rich colors of the food and spices in the Boqueria Market, or the simple but profound juxtaposition of old and new, it is a feast for the eyes!

Here are some photos from our first hours in Barcelona. You can also follow Entertaining Family on Instagram!

Arc de Triomf in Barcelona

Amazing Old Doors

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A Stunning New Orleans Wedding

Hi Friends! I’ve recently returned from my brother and sister-in-law’s destination wedding in the Big Easy. It was a beautiful and memorable affair that perfectly celebrated these two artistic wanderers. Rather than writing a long post about it, I thought I’d share some photographs that captured the spirit of this perfect day. I hope you find some inspiration:

The Bride

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Ceremony

Happy Faces

seth-and-masha

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Liz singing

Married

Our Family

Lovers

Happy Moms by Bryan Patrick Photography

Lovelies 2

The First Dance

mara-seth

The guys

Sparklers

Jumping In by Bryan Patrick Photography

The Bride and Groom by Bryan Patrick Photography

Commitment Reading of the Pueblo Indian

Before we met, you and I were halves unjoined except in the wide rivers of our minds. We were each other’s distant shore, the opposite wings of a bird, the other half of a seashell.  We did not know the other then, did not know our determination to keep alive the cry of one riverbank to the other. We were apart, yet connected in our ignorance of each other, like two apples sharing a common tree.  Remember?

I knew you existed long before you understood my desire to join my freedom to yours. Our paths collided long enough for our indecision to be swallowed up by the greater need of love. When you came to me, the sun surged towards the earth and the moon escaped from darkness to bless the union of two spirits, so alike that the creator had designed them for life’s endless circle.  Beloved partner, keeper of my heart’s odd secrets, clothed in summer blossoms so the icy hand of winter never touches us.

I thank your patience.  Our joining is like a tree to earth, a cloud to sky and even more. We are the reason the world can laugh on its battlefields and rise from the ashes of its selfishness to hear me say, in this time, this place, this way – I love you best of all.

For more on the wedding, check out To My Brother, With Love.

(Thanks to those friends whose photos I may have used to complete this post! Also a huge thanks to Bryan Patrick Photography and Race and Religious in New Orleans.)

Beginning Each Day In The Garden

“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.”

― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Entertaining Family in the Garden

Wisconsin is my home, and one of my favorite things about this beautiful place is the vibrancy of each season. I love them all, but today summer has my heart. As the weather warms, my living space expands into our gardens and it becomes easier to connect with nature on a daily basis.

I like to begin each day by enjoying a cup of coffee on our back patio. As I take my first sips of the morning, I am serenaded by a couple of cardinals that have nested in a nearby tree. Drops of dew have gathered making leaves glisten and flowers sparkle. As the sun rises, the world has an ethereal hush and my mind is quiet.

Humming birds, monarchs, and honey bees are already hard at work. I watch them tend to the garden and try not to disturb their habitat.

I am lucky to watch over this place. Our little piece of the world.

Entertaining Family in the Garden 2

 

Explore Montréal

My dear friends, today’s post is long over due! I apologize for the brief hiatus from Entertaining Family…it has had to do with our kitchen remodel, a full travel and work schedule, and a broken laptop…blah, blah, blah. Anyway, I am back and pleased to share a post about our recent adventures in Montréal.

If you haven’t been, I would highly recommend this sophisticated metropolis along the Saint Lawrence River. With fantastic restaurants, lively neighborhoods, beautiful architecture, and interesting street art, whether you are traveling solo, with a friend, a lover, or child, there is plenty to keep you occupied. The city is easy to navigate with convenient metro and bus lines, and almost everyone in the service industry speaks both French and English.

Our family flew from Milwaukee to Montréal by way of Detroit (my favorite of the large, international airports). It took about three hours to get to our destination – easy breezy, right? After a relatively short cab ride, we arrived at our hotel. As I stepped out of the yellow taxi and onto the old cobblestone street, I knew that we were embarking on a wonderful week abroad.

Streets of Old Port Montreal

Standing at Hotel Gault

We stayed at the beautiful Hôtel Gault located in Old Montréal, the historic district of the city. The hotel included a casual restaurant (open for breakfast and lunch), bar, lounge, and library. There was a wonderful photography exhibit on display, and plenty of places to sit and relax.

Martini at the Gault

Bar at Hotel Gault

Our hotel room was beautiful, with a huge wrap-around terrace that offered views of the downtown skyline. While on vacation, we were caught in a snow storm (spring in Canada!) and the terrace became a winter playland for our daughter. Thankfully, the next day was sunny and warm…

OLD MONTRÉAL

We could have spent our entire vacation in Old Montréal – there was so much to see and do. The narrow streets made getting around by foot the preferred method of transportation. Old stone paths wound us past the most exquisite architecture and sculptures.

Centre d'hisoire de Montreal

The Streets of Old Port

The Talking Ladies of Montreal 1

The Talking Ladies of Montreal 2

Also found in this great section of the city, is the Notre Dame Basilica, the Montréal Science Center, and Place d’Armes, a beautiful public square which is perfect for socializing, people watching, taking in the city, or arranging a horse-drawn tour.

Notre Dame Montreal

Science Center Montreal

Place d'Armes 1

horse drawn carriage

Food choices in Old Montréal are abundant, but our favorites were:

Chez Delmo: an upscale seafood restaurant with fresh ingredients and impeccable service – the perfect place to begin an elegant night on the town. In addition to serving beautifully plated meals, the wine list was extensive. The place is formal, but not stuffy.

Nolana: this rustic Italian eatery on Rue McGill is worth a trip. The tile pizza oven in the back of the restaurant cooks dishes to perfection! Pizza’s are served with a scissors (what a great way to self-serve!), and the seafood was fresh and tasty. In addition, the menu included a cocktail section that included wines, mixed drinks, bourbons, and other liquors.

Olive & Gourmando: laid back and lively, this popular brunch spot usually comes with a long line. If you’re not keen on waiting for a table, there is a takeout option. If you’re not in the mood for a full meal, grab a coffee and sample a fresh baked pastry. The vegan and vegetarian lunch options are delicious!

CHINATOWN

Chinatown is relatively small, but worth a visit. It is within walking distance to downtown and Old Montréal. In addition to housing some great food options, there are wonderful shops, a pedestrian street – perfect for sightseeing, and lots of public art.

Window Eating in China Town Montreal

China Town Mural Montreal

PLATEAU MOUNT ROYAL

The Plateau neighborhood is definitely the cosmopolitan, hipster, artsy center of the city. If you are looking for a bustling neighborhood filled with shopping, coffee shops, bars, restaurants, and exciting nightlife, then this is your spot! A quick Metro ride from downtown, this area of the city engages all of the senses. In addition to a great street scene, Mont Royal Park is an expansive green space with hiking trails, playgrounds, and wide open areas. As the highest point in Montréal, it offers beautiful vistas of the city.

Plateau Montreal

View from Mt. Royal

Our time in Montréal seemed too short. With so much to see and do, we could have spent another week exploring. My daughter has decided that this is her new favorite destination and she has already requested a return trip this summer. Relaxing, casual, friendly…this city is divine!

If you enjoyed our post about Montréal, check out some of Entertaining Family’s other travel stories. Here are some of our favorites:

Camden, Maine

Photos from San Francisco

An Italian Inspired Dinner Party

Wine Tasting in Wisconsin

 

Vacationing in Maine, Part 3: The “Other” Portland

More often than not, when I tell people that I love spending time in Portland, they assume I mean the city on the west coast. I’ve been there too, but my favorite happens to be the original, on the other side of the United States. This waterfront city in Maine is full of exciting things to do! It is walkable, has beautiful parks and other open green spaces, and has an exciting food scene.

For our family, no trip to Portland, Maine is complete without a visit to the Eventide Oyster Company. The casual raw bar and eatery is my favorite restaurant. Ever. Anywhere. The seafood is always fresh and delicious, and the preparations are innovative and exciting. You can’t go wrong with a dozen east coast oysters, and bonus, they often shuck them right at the bar while you watch over a cocktail. My six-year-old can gobble up a dozen on her own! And then she follows it up with a battered hake sandwich. My husband and I recommend the greens, broiled jumbo winter point oysters, and tuna crudo.

One of my other favorite spots to relax in Portland is Zapoteca Tequileria which has delicious margaritas, an extensive tequila menu, and fresh, modern Mexican dishes. It is a great place to linger over drinks and shared plates. The interior is dark and romantic and the food is consistently good.

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In terms of places to stay when we’re traveling, my husband and I are usually huge fans of Airbnb and Vrbo, but our most recent visit to Portland we stayed at the Press Hotel which opened in May of 2015. It is housed in the former Portland Press Herald headquarters, which is the state’s largest newspaper. Today the interior of the boutique hotel pays homage to its printing press roots. The walls are covered with typeface paper and you can find antique typewriters throughout the hotel – our daughter loved playing with them…as did so many of the guests. The lower level houses a small art gallery.

Our room in the Press Hotel was very spacious and the finishes were luxurious. And upon our arrival, they brought my daughter a children’s book (Blueberries for Sal) and some fresh-baked cookies. She felt like Eloise living at the Plaza.

Our family also really enjoyed dinner at UNION, which is located on the main floor of the hotel. The setting was formal enough to feel special, but casual enough to make our child feel welcomed. One of the lovely servers brought over some “play” dishes and spoons so that our daughter’s dolls wouldn’t starve. Very thoughtful! Seriously, it is these little touches that elevate an experience to something truly special.

If you are lucky enough to find yourself in Portland one day, and you have brought little ones along, they will love this city! Try the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum which offers short train rides along the water’s edge, the Children’s Museum of Maine with three floors of interactive exhibits, Eastern Promenade Park which has two miles of walking trails, a playground, and great views of Casco Bay, or walk the narrow cobblestone streets of Old Port. For a kid-friendly, low-fuss lunch spot, head to the Portland Lobster Company and grab a seat along the waterfront. Then help your kids find the statue of the Maine Lobsterman!

If you missed my earlier posts on our travels through Maine, check out Augusta Day Trips or Fun in Camden. Maine is a beautiful state – one of my favorite vacation destinations. If you haven’t made it there yet, I hope you will consider visiting this special place. It’s perfect for families who love outdoor adventures, great food, cultural experiences, and waterfront living. Take time to tour a few of the smaller, quintessential New England towns like Bath, Hallowell and Camden, and don’t miss an opportunity to see that “other” Portland. You will fall in love!

Stay tuned for an upcoming post on Montreal!