Civilian and Military Lives …

Every once in a while I see blog postings and articles regarding the topic what   not to say to a military spouse. Last time was a few days ago when I saw one of these postings titled ” Top 10 Dumbfounding Things NOT to Say to a Military Wife ”  on SpouseBuzz.com.   Yes, military life is significantly different from civilian life: where civilian counterparts meet their future spouses in college, get their degrees, get married, buy a house with white picket fence, get a dog and then two kids – and live in the same area for decades, military families pick up their lives every few years, and bloom wherever they are planted by the line of service they are associated with.

Those two worlds can be -and actually are- very, very far from each other. It can be difficult for civilians to understand what the military asks from the service members. Why people voluntarily sign up to put themselves in harm’s way. Simply, why they do what they do. But I don’t think military spouses should get irritated when our civilian friends ask questions about our life and lifestyle. In fact I find it annoying when I see these articles advising what not to say to military spouse. Both military and civilian life have their ups and down, own unique challenges.

I do not mind if someone asks me how I deal with my husband being gone every once in a while. Or when/if he is planning to retire from the military. Or if someone invites me to visit, or wants to visit me when my husband is gone, I am more happy to take the offer. Obviously I am not thrilled about him being gone but on the other hand I have been gone quite a bit for my work as well, so as mature adults we just deal with the separations caused by our careers. At the end of the day, we chose this life: my husband wants to serve the country that we both dearly love, and I chose to marry him, knowing his dedication for our country.

I must have most awesome friends on earth because I have never had to think that they are asking dumb questions about military life.  Even if they have asked questions such as the ones mentioned in the article on SpuseBuzz.com. Actually, quite opposite: I am happy to answer their questions, and I am glad they ask. That tells me they are curious and most importantly they care. And time to get off my soapbox.

New York – Lady Liberty

New York City coastline from Liberty Island
New York City coastline from Liberty Island

Our short New York trip was pretty much filled with activities – enough to have all three blog postings so here is the last part of our adventures: trip to Liberty Island and Ellis Island.

La Liberté éclairant le monde, Liberty Enlightening the World.  France gave the Statue of Liberty to the US as a present in 1886.  The structure of the statue is designed by world-famous engineer, Gustave Eiffel. As every engineer loves the nitty-gritty details, I have to mention that the structure is designed to be flexible so that statue’s skin doesn’t crack due to the weather conditions such as winds from the river or hot weather in the summer that causes the metal bars inside the statue to expand. National Park Service’s website actually has a great overview of Eiffel’s work on Lady Liberty .

As far as visiting Statue of Liberty and Liberty Island goes, the island is accessible only by a ferry . The ferry and tours on island can be booked in advance, and especially in the summer time it is highly recommended. The grounds of the island is free but tickets are needed for both the pedestal and the crown . In January we didn’t have any hope to get tickets to either one with a few days notice – the first tickets available were at the end of  February. So if you know you are heading to NYC and want to visit the statue inside, you want to reserve your spot earlier than early. From Liberty Island we continued to Ellis Island , which served as the first entry point for over 12 million immigrants from 1892 to 1954.

Statue of Liberty
Statue of Liberty
Buddy Bison -our travel bison- met Lady Liberty too!
Buddy Bison -our travel bison- met Lady Liberty too!
Ellis Island
Ellis Island
Twin Tower Memorial site. We will never forget.
Twin Tower Memorial site. 9/11 – we will never forget.
Firefighters memorial wall.
Firefighters memorial wall.
Hustle and bustle - Times Square.
Hustle and bustle – Times Square.
M&M's!
M&M’s!
More M&M's.
More M&M’s.

 

MMoA – New York

We are art lovers. Louvre in Paris, Art Institute of Chicago , Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York… There is something fascinating and exciting in museums in addition to the gorgeous pieces of art. Something that keeps us coming back. And I have to make confession: even though I have been to New York a dozen or more times, this past weekend was my first time ever visiting the MMoA. On my previous trips I have been way too busy in meetings or have spent a good chunk of time (and money) by swiping my credit card on the 5th Ave, or have been running in the Central Park. 

MMoA is one of those huge museums where you can easily spend a few days . Big like Louvre, or The British Museum in London, or Smithsonian in Washington DC…. So I highly recommend excellent walking shoes and plenty of time when heading to the MMoA. And proper planning beforehand is not a bad idea either. MET Museum really has it all: the oldest piece of art in the collection is a storage jar dated back to 3800-3700 BC; there is the oldest piano in existence (built in 1720 in Italy); there is more than 2 million items in the museum; and finally, the museum is about 2,000,000 square ft (equals to 190,000 square meter) – almost 35 football fields!

Our mission was to see some European paintings – I totally love Monet and Van Gogh’s paintings, check out the Arms and Armor collection, as well as we wanted to see the Fabergé collection by Matilda Geddings Gray Foundation.  MMoA is one of those few places in the US where you can see Fabergé eggs – others being Virginia Museum of Fine Art, Hillwood Museum in DC, and Cleveland Museum of Art. Most of the eggs are on the other side of the Atlantic ocean, majority of them being found in Russia.

While enjoying the European paintings, one of Monet’s paintings really caught my eye, and I said to Jason  I know that place, I have been there . And I sure was right. Two of Monet’s paintings from Étretat, Normandy, France are part of MMoA’s collection. It was funny to recognize one of my favorite coastal locations in France (sans tourists) where I have spent so much time.

Do you like museums? What is your favorite museum in the world?

Metropolitan Museum of Art
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Sunflowers. Vincent van Gogh, 1887.
Sunflowers. Vincent van Gogh, 1887.
Chrysanthemums.  Claude Monet, 1882.
Chrysanthemums.
Claude Monet, 1882.
The Manneporte near Étretat. Claude Monet, 1886.
The Manneporte near Étretat. Claude Monet, 1886.
Violins by Antonio Stradivari (1644–1737).
Violins by Antonio Stradivari (1644–1737).
Fabergé: Imperial Danish Palace Egg.
Fabergé: Imperial Danish Palace Egg.
Flowers by Fabergé
Flowers by Fabergé

 

New York, New York

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“For me, New York is comfortable, not strange.” –Karl Lagerfeld

We decided to do a quick last-minute weekend trip to New York, thanks to a great flight deal at United. Lucky  me  us. While I greatly love big cities and adore west coast, there is nothing that could ever beat New York. If I were to live in the city, it would be either New York or Paris. Hands down.

Jason and I spent two and half awesome days in the Big Apple: did some shopping, enjoyed some most delicious culinary pieces of art, soaked in the hustle and bustle of the city… The city that never sleeps managed to keep us busy, hence there will be two postings about our New York trip.

But let’s get started. Especially in NYC, I usually prefer the small(er) luxury boutique hotels over the chains. Simply because I have seen Marriotts and Hiltons way too many times, and most of them look and feel about the same after hundreds of nights I have spent in them. This time we booked a suite at London NYC:  a luxury hotel just a couple of blocks from the Central Park but still conveniently away from the craziness of Times Square.  Awesome service and staff that paid attention to every single detail combined with our suite that was absolutely gorgeous made our stay a great experience. On the 17th floor with the city view we really couldn’t have been happier. The simple yet stylish room was a real treat. French doors opened from the living area to the bedroom that had beautiful light fixtures with dimming. The living area had the cutest oval sofa ever – something that I will now be hunting for my office….

Bedroom
Bedroom
Living room
Living room (and part of the aforementioned sofa on the right).
Bathroom
Bathroom: glass and tile.

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The added bonus of the hotel was its restaurant: London NYC is home of world famous Gordon Ramsay restaurant.  We looked at the reservations at Ramsay’s restaurant before heading to NYC, with no luck. However, little discussion with the extremely friendly hotel staff led to a dinner reservation for Saturday night – at a restaurant that was supposed to be booked. Making restaurant reservations can sometimes be almost art: more than once I have been able to get a reservation in a fully-booked restaurant either by playing the hotel guest card (which, by the way works very often), or I have successfully used the concierge service that my credit card provides.

The dining experience at Ramsay’s restaurant was simply amazing . We were treated like royalty: the service was top notch, and the food…. delicious. We ordered food from a la carte as well as enjoyed the Chef’s five course tasting menu. Very chic, French style menu was extraordinary, creative, and visually stunning. On our dinner, we enjoyed Turnip Velouté (the second picture on the upper row), Beet Root Salad (on the left, first row) with quail egg and goat cheese, Black Sea Bass (second row, left), Veal Chop, and  dessert was Dark Chocolate Decadence.

At Gordon Ramsay in NYC
At Gordon Ramsay in NYC
Sewing idea from Purl Soho
Sewing idea from Purl Soho

The only real shopping experience on this trip was in Lower Manhattan. I was thinking of going to photographer’s mecca, B&H Photovideo as well but chose the photo opportunities over the store. And besides, I pretty much know what photo gear I need – easier to have FedEx bringing my stuff to the front door than dragging stuff through airports myself. So we headed out to a yarn and fabric store,  Purl Soho  after a fun-filled day in Central Park and Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Purl Soho is a gorgeous, little yarn and fabric store in the heart of SoHo, surrounded by little shops and art galleries. Purl’s yarn selection is fabulous: there is no way to walk out of the store without buying  something . I found the multicolored yarn for yet another scarf project ….. as well as came up with ideas to make some soft toys either for home decoration purposes, or gifts to friends’ kids. Purl Soho has some pretty neat patterns on their website!  For example the little Teddy Bear would look great on my reading room’s shelf. Or maybe I should have turtles taking over the guest bedroom. And this little sheep would be totally awesome on the couch!

Purl Soho
Yarn at Purl Soho
Yarn for new scarf...
Another scarf project will start …
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Fabrics, oh, fabrics …

 

Stay tuned for part 2 of our NYC adventures: tomorrow we will visit Metropolitan Museum of Art and Lady Liberty.

Travels On My Mind

enhanced-buzz-29911-1358194467-2 Traveling has always been one of my favorite things: I enjoy seeing new places, speaking foreign languages…. and I even love long flights and hustle and bustle at the airports.

Although we have some plans made already for 2014 travels, I am also looking at an adventure or two in some  exotic  locations. I have been to all but two continents: Antarctica and Africa. Both places where I truly want to drag my photo gear. However, this time around I am thinking of going to places somewhat familiar. There are places such as Venezuela, Peru, Argentina, South Africa, Korea, Indonesia and Malaysia on my list. For a while I was thinking of going to Singapore again – until I realized that the flight from Chicago is over 22 hours there. Yes, I love flying but could split that uber-long flight into two legs.

I have been to Venezuela before, and greatly enjoyed Caracas. Now I would love to head northwest of Caracas, and check out the Mecanos De Coro National Park  and its sand dunes… Or travel south and visit the magnificent Angel Falls – the water falls that are the world’s largest, 15 time bigger than Niagara Falls.

Peru, instead, would be great for hiking and outdoors. And I could rent a  car   llama, and hike up to Machu Picchu. Or go to Amazon rainforest, or check out the islands on Titicaca Lake. Maybe trekking and horseback riding could be my thing in Argentina? Apparently I still have some thinking and planning to do… I would prefer outdoors adventures, gorgeous views, more outdoors on my trip. Shopping is not my thing – that’s why Dubai was dropped off of my list pretty quick. Nor I am after luxury on this trip – although I won’t say no to 5-star hotels, I won’t be really seeking them. But golf opportunities are always welcome.

Have you visited any of these locations? Any recommendations? If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you love to go?

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Going through my travel book library…

 

Army Life and Adventures. Notes from here, there, everywhere.