Monday, August 29, 2011

Vanderbilts for a Day!

One of the best things that I did this summer while I was back East was spending a day in Newport, Rhode Island. Newport is one of my most favorite places ever! It's a historic, lovely town by the ocean and has beautiful old mansions along the coast that can be toured. Peter took me there when we first started dating and we had such a good time that day. This time, eleven years later, I went with my parents, my sister Elizabeth and her son Rocco, and my boys. (Poor Peter was stuck back in Iowa, hard at work!)

We toured one mansion, The Breakers, which is my favorite one and is the biggest of all of them. ("Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the biggest of them all?") It was the summer home of the Vanderbilts and construction started on it in 1893. It's modeled in the style of an Italian palace. My favorite things about it are the cozy library, the second-floor terrace, the lovely grounds, and its amazing views of the ocean.

I wanted to get a cute picture of John and Sam on this stone lion near the front entrance, but John was being a pill and wouldn't let Sam get on the lion.

Oh well! We tried.

I kind of rushed through the mansion and didn't get to listen to the automated tour that's given on headphones because for some strange reason, the kids weren't all that interested. This is where having my husband there would have been very helpful! It was okay though because I'd been through it before. I walked them through and did my best to rein in Sam's desire to explore beyond the velvet ropes, and then let them escape onto the grounds to play. In the future, I don't think I'll bring young kids to tour the mansions!

This is the beautiful ocean view from the back of the home's second-floor terrace. If I had lived here I would have spent many of my summer days on this terrace laying on a chaise lounge and reading books. Amazing!

I love the grounds because they have big sweeping trees and perfectly manicured green grass and bright puffy  hydrangea bushes and beautiful views of the mansion and the ocean.

This is the biggest birdbath I've ever seen!

Hydrangeas are everywhere in New England during the summer, from the grandest estates to small bushes of them along random side streets. I love them!
The boys had a lot of fun climbing on the trees and running around under the low-hanging branches. They'll take the joys of nature over a stuffy old mansion any day!

The back of The Breakers. The second-floor terrace that overlooks the ocean is there in the middle...

Of course we had to take the requisite family pictures with the mansion as the backdrop. Sam was trying his best to escape (again!)...

Elizabeth and I and our boys...

Just a few more views of this wonderful place that I love!

A girl can dream...

It's fun to imagine about the people who lived here and the things that happened behind those gates, within those walls, and on those grounds a century ago.

After we were done at the mansion we went to downtown Newport, which is full of fun shops, galleries, and restaurants. John decided to catch a wave while we were there...

I bought a book a few days later that I plan on reading at some point: Gilded: How Newport Became America's Richest Resort by Deborah Davis. It combines two things that I like: history and glamour. It should be a good read!

And that was our lovely day as would-be Vanderbilts!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Random Thoughts on a Friday Morning

Here are some of the things flitting around in my head right now:

-Hurricane Irene. I'm a little anxious about it. I love a good storm but this one sounds like it could be pretty serious. I don't live in New England anymore but my family and many of my friends do. I'm a little worried!

-What is going on this week?! An earthquake on the East Coast, an incoming hurricane on the East Coast, Steve Jobs resigned as CEO of Apple, and it looks like Libya is finally going to get rid of a terrible dictator (who has a crush on Condoleeza Rice, which I find very amusing!). 

-I hate my hair. But first, in an attempt to be positive, here are the things I like about it: it's naturally straight, soft, and blond. And here are the things I don't like about it: it's thin, it's taking forever to grow longer, it's breaking off on one side, and it has become super-fragile. What's up with that? I hate my hair.

-I now have a son old enough to be in Boy Scouts! John started Cub Scouts this week and I am now the proud mother of a Tiger Cub. (Does that make me a Tiger Mom?)

-Tomorrow I'm getting a lava rock massage!

-This picture inspires me and brings out my inner neat freak. I'm trying to get my life organized so that September can get off to a good start.

I hope you have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Summer 101

When I was looking through some of the pictures I took this summer, I noticed that the ones from a barbecue at my sister Elizabeth's house illustrate well many of the classic great things that I love about summer!

Watermelon, swimsuits, beach balls, and pools (even little ones!)


Chillin' out!


I love summer and it's been a great one! What are some of your favorite summertime things?

Friday, August 19, 2011

More Peas Please!

Sam is a picky eater, which can sometimes make mealtimes less than successful, but it helps that the things he likes to eat are mostly good: fruits, vegetables, crackers, breads, cheese. As you can see, he absolutely loves peas. Just give him a pot of peas and he's happy!

That is one pea-powered boy!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Fair to Remember!

 Last week we got back from our summer vacation to New England! It was a wonderful trip and so nice to be with our families again. I have much to blog about from the summer but until that happens (after I get my pictures--over 1200 of them!--pared down and edited), I wanted to post this blog post I wrote last summer and never posted (did I just say "post" three times in a row? Make that four times!). The Iowa State Fair is being held right now about two hours away in Des Moines. We wanted to spend a day there, but after the road trip from Massachusetts and all the time Peter's taken off from work, we decided we'd just have to skip it this year. We're sick of being in the car and not even a trip to the state fair can entice us! So without further ado, here is my ode from a year ago to the State Fair, now getting its moment in the spotlight after languishing in the "Unpublished" file for a year...


You didn't really think I was all done writing about the Iowa State Fair, did you? This is my third and final post on the matter. (The other posts are here and here.) What can I say; I found the fair to be rich in blogging material!

Last month I happened to come across an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal (which is this blog's namesake...they should be paying me for this kind of publicity) about state fairs titled "Our Love Affair With the Fairs." It was a fun little editorial and among other things, it said:  

"State fairs represent the America many of us praise from afar, or live within, or simply puzzle over."

"Fairs...can be traced back to 500 B.C....Fairs have existed as microcosms of society from the beginning..."

"Let's face it: no matter how sophisticated we become, a life-size statue of Elvis sculpted from 800 pounds of butter will always fascinate us. And if you don't understand this, then I'm afraid you don't understand America."

What Midwestern state fair would be complete without a tractor parade?
Classic cars, all in a row
Junk food at its finest
My father ended up buying an organic cotton mattress!
These huge fat snakes make me feel slightly nauseous even now.

We plan on going to the State Fair each summer. It must be the American in us!