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kimmy, travel

5 reasons everyone should visit a Lantern Festival

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Once you’ve seen Walt Disney Animation’s “Tangled” … you will add attending a lantern festival to your bucket list. And once you’ve seen the floating lanterns in person, you won’t cross it off your list, because once will never be enough.

Last September, we took a drive over the state line and headed to Reno, Nevada for one of these events: “The Lantern Fest.” The event was held out at a a remote dirt race track outside the city limits in Fernley and the lines to get in to park were HOURS long. We thought we’d arrive with enough time to get a snack from the food trucks and settle in before the big event, but instead we were stuck outside on a 2-lane road for 90 minutes and were a bit frantic that we might miss the entire event. But… we didn’t.

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Instead we parked and walked through a very nondescript dirt parking lot…

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… out to the race track.

Checking in for the event was incredibly simple with our printed tickets, and each of us got our lantern (and the extras we ordered) and s’mores kit and walked inside the venue.

From there, we settled ourselves on the far northern edge of the track -like literally SITTING on the high banks of the track – near a s’mores pit and a nice view of what was to come.

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Reason 1: It’s Tangled in Real Life

Miss L insisted on bringing her Rapunzel dress to the event… and wearing it 0.2 seconds after we found our spot on the track.

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Reason #2: You get to be crafty!

As we waited for the sky to darken completely, we took out the markers we had packed to decorate our lanterns.

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Reason #3: MORE S’Mores!!!

And we ate s’mores. We got a kit with our tickets, but I had packed extra s’mores kits as well with our extendable metal forks. I mean… you should never leave your kit at home when you’ve got it, right?

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I must admit it started to feel like forever out there in the desert as we all waited for night, but the excitement in the air was palpable. We made friends at the s’mores pit with others, danced to the music from the main stage at the center of the race track, and relaxed into what was about to happen.

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Before it was time to light the lanterns, the only light came from the tiki torches that were elegantly laid out in rows. It was the tiki torches that were our key to lighting our lanterns, and there were more than enough to help everyone out.

We waited patiently for the fire marshall to give the OK (I mean… let’s not pretend that this is all super safe and lovely because there are people and vegetation that can catch fire in the middle of the desert in Nevada!)…

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And then they started to rise…

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And you just can’t contain the happiness in your chest at that moment. It’s just… well… MAGIC.

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Reason #4: Going from dark to LIGHT

Then it was our turn to try it out!

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Mr. M carefully lit our first lantern, and then held it for about 30 seconds before it built up enough hot air to lift out of his hands…

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The sky was bright at this point… just completely lit up by lanterns as far as you could see up and down and all around!

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We tried to track each of the lanterns as they made it up into the sky, until it was too far away from us to pick out among the hundreds above it.

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Some people left about 5 minutes after the first lantern went up, but they were the real losers. While they got out of the parking lot quickly, they didn’t get to soak in all of the magic that every additional lantern created for thirty more minutes.

Because honestly, when do you cry in Tangled? Is it the first lantern she sees? Or is it when they start singing together? I start to tear up on the flash to Pascal tearing up… but the water works let loose when they sing together. And that’s definitely after 5 minutes!

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So we stayed! And we kept lighting our lanterns!

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And we enjoyed the magic as long as we could!

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Reason #5: MAGIC!

I mean, who doesn’t need an extra helping of magic?

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We finally made our exit and slowly made our way back over the Sierras and into California… and planned for our next visit to a crazy lantern festival in the desert.

Because one is definitely not enough.

I encourage everyone to try and experience this in person at some point in your life! I mean, I saw the amazing photos and videos on a friend’s Facebook page and that’s all it took to convince me to go! Two of the most popular events are the Lantern Fest, which may be coming near you this year, and the Rise Festival out in the Mojave Desert near Vegas!​ And if it isn’t in your near future, then hopefully that scene from Tangled will keep lighting up your life!

family, travel

Spring break 2016: dc (part two)

[Catch up on the other Spring Break 2016 posts:  Palmetto Bluff, SC; Williamsburg; DC (Part One)]

On Thursday morning, we woke up bright and early (and grabbed some Dunkin’ Donuts of course!) and headed to Congress!

We had gone through the process of requesting tours with our local Congresswoman, Doris Matsui (CA-6), back in January. We had requested tours of the White House, United States Capitol and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Since we only gave about 2 months notice, we didn’t luck out with an appointment with the White House or the Bureau of Engraving and Printing during the very busy Spring Break week… BUT we did have a personal tour set up waiting with our Congresswoman’s office!

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We didn’t have too much trouble finding her office location in Rayburn Building and met Andrew, the Congressional office manager and our tour for the day.

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We left all of our bags in the Congresswoman’s office and then proceeded through security and over to the visitor’s center. It was PACKED with people waiting for their tours to begin, and it even took Andrew an incredibly long time to get our passes from the special “Congressional tour” line.

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Once we had our official stickers, we could begin the tour through the Capitol!

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Miss L was an eager tour participant, and was often leading the group through the halls so she could hear everything that was being said by our guide…

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One of my favorite spots in the Capitol was the old Supreme Court chambers… it reminded me of what we saw in Williamsburg and having all of the branches of government in one large state house… and what the good/bad of that would be. (In other words… a spot for a political science geek like me to geek out)

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When we came to the National Statuary Hall, there was a statue that Miss L recognized by name and face… Rosa Parks! She had recently read “I Am Rosa Parks” and when we saw this statue she just lit up and started telling us all about her.

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After touring all of the main attractions of the Capitol, we got to the highlight of our visit that day: walking the floor of the House of Representatives. I had been on the floor once before back in 1997 at JSA Summer School, so visiting 19 years later was a treat! And just like back then… there were still no cameras allowed inside!

While we sat there trying to reconcile the smallness of the room with the enormity of it on TV, Miss L discovered the voting buttons and wanted to know how it all worked. I figured it was the perfect time for a small civics lesson, so I explained how bills and laws were passed and how the debate and voting worked in as simple of a manner as I could.

Suddenly, she stands up and says, “Resolved, that kids have to do all the work and grownups get to play all day.” Then, her finger forcefully lands on the “Nay” button and she pushes it down with quite a bit of emotion. “So that’s how it would work?”  Yep, kiddo… that’s EXACTLY how it would work. (And the tears welled up a little in my eyes too!)

And with that…  our long tour day at the Capitol was complete!

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We walked outside to admire the cherry blossoms that were blooming all around DC… then grabbed a cab to head on up to lunch at Momofuku CCDC.

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Mr. M and I couldn’t resist ordering the same thing: Beef Noodle Soup.

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And Miss L opted for the Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder. (Which was yet another place where they questioned if she would eat the food that she ordered. So I’m thinking that DC kiddos aren’t really eating out too much? And seriously… NEVER underestimate Miss L’s consumption of delicious PIG and pickles!)

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For dessert… we of course indulged in crack pie. Because, let’s be honest, who knows if I’ve been making it properly at all these past years!

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Miss L got Cereal ice cream… and she didn’t like it. Seriously. She put away that entire bowl of food, and was like “eh… this doesn’t taste good” about cornflake ice cream. So we ate it… and were very pleased!

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We headed back to the hotel, but around 6pm we all started to get the munchies again. Miss L and I decided to walk down the street to Corner Bakery to grab a light dinner to bring back to the room, but we took a little detour to see the White House.

Then we all crashed hard after watching Michael Jackson’s Journey from Motown to Off the Wall and got ready for our final day in DC!

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So what does one do on their last day in DC?  Why… let’s start out by visiting the National Archives! The weather had turned cold and rainy that Friday, so we figured a day around the museums was just perfect.

Mr. M had never visited the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom, so we figured it was a must stop for the last day. Somehow staring at old pieces of parchment and faded ink really just gets your emotions going for the day… even Miss L couldn’t muster up many words inside the exhibit. There were many Hamilton fans in the Rotunda that day… seeking him out in the various paintings in the room. I think that was one of the best parts: realizing that being there and seeing our founding documents was “super cool” to hipsters from Brooklyn.

From the National Archives, we wandered down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Museum of American History. Sadly, we did not have an umbrella, and we underestimated the popularity of the museum that morning… which means we ended up SOAKED outside.

Once inside (and now the proud owners of a pretty Smithsonian umbrella), we once again indulged Miss L in her George Washington fandom.

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A lot of the exhibits were closed due to some big ones coming in 2017/2018… but we did get to stop in my favorite First Lady’s display!

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Miss L, ever the foodie, decided that we needed to have a fancier plate to eat our oysters on, like this one from Lucy Hayes. (I looked up the prices on eBay… so yeah… she can wait to register for that for her wedding!)

My favorite exhibit was the Star Spangled Banner exhibit… probably because when we walked into the dark room and saw the illuminated flag, Miss L put her hand over her heart and started quietly singing the national anthem to herself. (again, the tears… seriously…)

After a quick lunch at the museum, we hopped on the metro and decided to spend the early afternoon visiting Georgetown University.

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I was the most useless tour guide, as my memory of the university from my summer there two decades ago was quite far gone outside of the general landmarks! Oh well… we at least made it to the bookstore where Miss L got a Hoyas baseball cap and Mr. M got some tennis shirts.

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Instead of waiting in an insanely crazy line for Georgetown Cupcakes (really? aren’t we so over and done with cupcakes???), we went and got macarons instead at Olivia Macaron. And we didn’t regret that one tiny bit!

For dinner, we went to Burger Tap & Shake in Foggy Bottom… where Mr. M had the best bacon burger of his life, and I had a crazy boozy Oreo Speedwagon milkshake. That’s the way one should truly end all vacations!

When we hopped on the metro, Mr. M asked if we could make one more visit to the rock shop at the Museum of Natural History. And really… how could I say no at this point?

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So… we took one last museum photo… bought more rocks…

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…walked back to the hotel amid the cherry blossoms…

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… and said goodbye to DC early the next morning.

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We definitely made the most of Miss L’s first official Spring Break… and I can’t wait to see what adventures await us in 2017!

travel

Spring break 2016: washington d.c. (part one)

After we left Williamsburg, we headed to visit some old LA friends outside of Washington, DC for the night. It was way too quick a visit, but wonderful to see them again and have the kids all play together!

The next morning, we drove into DC. Our “one way” car rental into DC had us dropping the car off at Union Station, so we first stopped by the Westin Washington, D.C. City Center, our home for the next few days, to drop off our luggage and then went to get rid of our car!

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We stopped and grabbed lunch inside the Union Center terminal so that Mr. M and Miss L could have their first taste of Shake Shack. I’m not sure Mr. M really tasted it, as much as inhaled it… but everyone was happy and ready to get walking on our first day in the nation’s capital!

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We strolled down to the National Mall and gave Miss L a choice of activities for the day!

IMG_9984Her first destination: the sculpture garden outside the National Gallery of Art! (She asked if we could put one of these houses in the backyard… so if you ever see any Lichtenstein copies floating around, can you let me know?)

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The next destination was a pretty obvious one: the National Museum of Natural History!

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I got to pick the first gallery, so of course I opted for a photographic exhibition from Franz Lanting (my favorite photographer in the whole wide world). Then we wandered into the exhibit featuring Nature’s Best Photography winners… where Miss L gathered a little bit of inspiration!

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Miss L was up next, and she chose to go and visit the dinosaurs!

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Then it was Mr. M’s turn… and he took us down the dark and evil path of natural rock specimens…

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(it’s dark and evil because we’re both rockhounds and seeing all of the specimens turns you into a rock-hunting guru who wants to take them all home!)

IMG_0009We ran into some familiar rocks from our neighborhood in California…

After that, we headed back up to the hotel for the night, grabbed some Thai Sushi for dinner nearby, and then went to bed for an early rise the next morning!

IMG_0026On Day 2, we woke up early to head over to the National Zoo!

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We were there when the gates opened (not that we had to pay or anything!) and ready to see everything that the National Zoo had in store for us…

IMG_0037Or… maybe we were just there to see this little guy.

Yeah. That’s a baby panda sleeping in a tree.

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And that’s a panda eating bamboo without a care in the world.

And I’ve spared you from the other 600+ photos and videos I took of pandas over the course of 90 minutes that morning because Mr. M says I might have a problem… and, well, he might be right. BUT THEY ARE SO ADORABLE!!!!

[note: My obsession became even worse when I looked through Instagram later that day and saw a photo of a family in the enclosure WITH THE BABY PANDA. HOW DID THEY DO THAT?!?! HOW MUCH MONEY DOES IT TAKE?!?! Ugh.. I don’t think I’ll ever know…]

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Once my family was able to pry me away from the black and white cuties, we wandered down the hill and back up again to see the rest of the Zoo!

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[side note: I had told Miss L that, during the summer I spent at Georgetown in high school, I took photos in front of every DC fountain making a fish face. I cannot recall for the life of me WHY I did it, but I did and I have lots of photos to prove it. So… she saw a fountain, and then this happened!]

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At around noon, the crowds started to get heavy and the heat started to set in. We grabbed Miss L a panda souvenir, grabbed some Indian food, and then went back to the hotel for a mid-day nap.

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[And yes… even six year olds appreciate a good midday vacation nap!]

IMG_0154Once the evening hit, we headed back to the National Mall for some night museum hours! And where did we go this time? WHY…

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… the Air & Space Museum of course!

IMG_0125We touched a moon rock…

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… chatted with Buzz (who had actually been up to space!)…

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…checked out some crazy space capsules…

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…pretended we were at mission control…

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… and fell in love with Amelia Earhart! We also grabbed a whole bunch of Space Treats (like astronaut ice cream) and departed for a Peruvian dinner at China Chicano.

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Miss L got this beautiful plate of ceviche (we had to seriously convince the waiter that she would like it and consume it all… as she did), and Mr. M and I indulged in our favorite: lomo saltado.

Now we get to the point of the night where we get to justify our long and indulgent afternoon nap: DC at night!

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Miss L successfully hailed her first cab (“It was so easy! I just stuck out my hand and said ‘TAXI’ and it came!”), and we headed down to the Lincoln Memorial for a fantastically perfect summer night.

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We spent a long time starting up at Lincoln in his memorial, then nibbled on our astronaut ice cream down by the reflecting pool. It was only then that we realized we had a perfect full moon that night… so we grabbed just a couple of photos to commemorate the night.

IMG_0156IMG_0198We then wandered over to the MLK Memorial…

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…and finished with a walk back to the Washington Memorial for some shadow play.

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Then … we walked up past the White House and back to our hotel (26,000+ steps that day!) and it was on to the final few days of our trip!

travel

Spring Break 2016: Williamsburg

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After our lovely visit to Palmetto Bluff, SC, we left the deep south and headed up to Williamsburg, VA. Mr. M remembered Colonial Williamsburg fondly from trips as a kid, and thought Miss L would get a kick out of it. She became obsessed with George Washington during their Kindergarten unit, so he thought spending a day in the Revolutionary Era might excite her.

We had dinner reservations set for Sunday evening in Colonial Williamsburg at The King’s Arm Tavern, so we left around 9am and drove Interstate 85 most of the way. After our final pit stop around 3:30, I consulted Waze to see what route it recommended. One option was continue on Interstates, and I believe I described the other way as “adventurous.” Given those choices, Mr. M opted for adventure, so we headed off onto country backroads and through the farm fields of Virginia. Continue Reading

travel

Spring Break 2016: Palmetto Bluff

Now that Miss L is in Kindergarten, our opportunities for vacations only fall into four categories: long holiday weekends, Christmas break, Spring break and summer. Suddenly the options aren’t so limitless, and the airfare rates are just plain diabolical! But we decided that we’d kick off her first official school year with a Spring Break full of memories… so we headed to the east coast for quite the excursion!

We started our trip near Bluffton, South Carolina (via Savannnah/Hilton Head International airport) to spend a weekend with friends who’d left Sacramento for the slow and easy Southern resort life.

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