Category Archives: Philly

Packing Practice Results Plus

Backpack after the husband packed--and he carried two shirts on hangers as well!

The packing practice trip was interesting.  While it was not intended to be a trip just to practice packing light, I’m glad I used the opportunity, as I learned several things.  First, my husband packs more than I do.  And even given this fact, he still forgets more than I do–and when he forgets something, it is a bigger deal.  For example–I only brought one change of socks–having two would have been nice.  He didn’t bring enough socks OR underwear.  I dealt with the sock ‘issue’ by wearing the same socks twice in a row (I do not find this gross–he does); he dealt with his sock/underwear ‘issue’…by going to Macy’s.  Which brings me to the next thing I learned–packing light on a short, close trip is kind of silly, especially when it means spending $30 on socks and underwear for your husband.  On a longer trip I would have just washed the socks and underwear for him (this is something I agreed to do for him for the entire trip–though, to be fair, in return, he agreed to go on the trip!).  But, because of his insistence on Macy’s, I got to go to the really nice Macy’s next to our hotel in Center City Philadelphia.  It was a really nice Macy’s–I spent the time he used to find socks and underwear to ponder buying a designer handbag (I refrained).  Also, I learned that there’s a giant organ in said Macy’s.  It sounded like we’d walked into Phantom of the Opera.  And again, this is just a Macy’s and it was just in Philly–I could see how having to buy sock and underwear in England or France would be even more of an interesting–if annoying and expensive–experience.   Finally, I learned that having lots of outfits is really not all that important.

Which brings me to my next story…the new smaller backpack I ordered arrived today–a Kelty Redwing 2650.  I am keeping it because it is what I was looking for–it is comfortable, sturdy, and reasonably priced (with a 25% off coupon code).  It meets airline carry on restrictions unlike the excessively large Redwing 3100 that I’ve already returned.  The zipper opens all the way down in the

Slightly smaller than a school bag Jansport bag next to slightly bigger than a school bag Kelty bag. And yes, I really like yellow.

front, making packing and unpacking (seem) easier.  But it is frighteningly small, considering it has to hold every single thing I will be taking across the ocean for five weeks–and I’d like to have room left over to bring back one or two things as gifts for the people looking after my house, dogs, and gardens.  If any of you are reading this–and you know who you are–you can look forward to your commemorative shoelace, because that’s all that’s going to fit!  I took a picture–right–to show the size of this bag in comparison to the one I packed for the Packing Practice Trip.  Clearly it is much bigger, and we will be taking two, not one, so there’s some comfort in that.  My husband, however, is not deciding on whether or not I’m ordering a matching bag for him–he’s waiting to check out the eBags Weekender that is currently on back order.  I can’t see it being comfortable lugging around what can only be described as a suitcase with straps, but he needs to figure that out for himself.  I think he’s hoping it will hold more–and he might be right.  And he probably needs the extra space, to avoid a 30 euro trip to the department store–and with the exchange rate right now, that’s probably a good thing.

Finally, I’ve officially determined that even if I’m not planning on taking one ounce of makeup–and I’m not–I will be taking one thing…a computer.  Or, more specifically, a netbook.  I need to write about things that I do (clearly!) and I like to do so whilst I do those things–I cannot imagine having to come back from over a month overseas and just then start writing.  I also cannot imagine coming back to the hotel or apartment or, in the case of my trip to Scotland, dorm, at the end of the day and not sitting down to write out at least a little of what I’ve done.  I’m a writing addict.  So now the netbook research begins!


Weekend Getaway

I’ve realized that blogging serves a very important purpose–it allows me to remember things I’ve done.  It sounds simple, but really, it is quite important.  For example, I didn’t write a blog post for the third day we spent in D.C.  And I don’t remember the details as well as I’d like.  Which is upsetting.  For example, I know we went to the National Gallery for a while, but I don’t remember specific things I liked about it–and I know they were many.  I know we went out for dinner, but I don’t remember what I had, aside from the fact that it was some kind of fish with some kind of foam on it.  I know I took lots of pictures, but as I never plugged any of them into a post, I don’t remember the specifics.  And so, I continue to blog about my travels, even when I can’t or don’t do so directly on my phone, directly from said travels.

All of that being said…ahem…

My husband and I spent this past weekend in Philadelphia.  We went to go to the flower show, but ended up also having dinner with a friend of mine (who I was shocked to discover I’d not seen in YEARS); we also made it to the Philadelphia Museum of Art (which I can’t believe I’ve never visited).  We started out with a valiant plan–we’d leave IMMEDIATELY after work, make it down there before five, spend the evening at the museum, hit the flower show on Saturday before drinks with said friend and a nice dinner.  We forgot to factor in one thing–Friday rush hour traffic.

I stupidly thought that everyone would be leaving the city at this time, rendering the road in front of us blissfully empty but the lanes to our left mind-bogglingly clogged.  How wrong I was.  All of the lanes were mind-bogglingly clogged–ours included.  It took us 2.5 hours to make the 50 mile trip; we checked in to the hotel after 6:30pm, rendering our Friday night museum plan completely void.  But, fortunately, said friend was available for dinner that night, and we had a fantastic time.  Though note to self–never allow the husband to go out for dinner anywhere when he’s THAT hungry.  We went to a very reasonably priced BBQ-esque place, and ended up spending way too much, as the starving husband ordered half the menu.

After sleeping in on Saturday morning, we made our way to the art museum from our hotel located behind city hall–if they look close together on a map or even on the skyline, they are NOT–we took a cab for the return trip.  But the museum itself was amazing.  I’ve never been to a museum like that–though, to be fair, most of the museums I’ve been do have been various Smithsonian run establishments (which, again to be fair, are deservedly impressive in their own right).  Aside from the amazing (but temporary) Picasso exhibit, this was less a museum of art and more a museum of culture–the second floor was a maze of the best of eastern and western culture, set up in a series of rooms complete with period furniture, lighting, and accessories.  Entire temples and chapels were installed exactly as they once stood in all parts of the world.  It was beyond anything that I could have hoped for.  At one point I actually thought–screw going to Europe.  I’ll just come back here.

The added bonus–the museum was empty.  Note the picture to the left–there’s no one else there.  For rooms and rooms, my husband and I roamed alone, with only the occasional security guard for company.  This was because EVERYONE ELSE IN THE ENTIRE CITY WAS AT THE FLOWER SHOW.  I’d write more about it, but really it can all be summed up with this: it would have been really beautiful if not for the thousands of people milling about.  Large masses of people are typically not very picturesque, not even when surrounded by thousands of plants and flowers.  But I managed to get a few good shots–see below.  Next year I will either not go at all, or go on a week day.

That night we went to Parc for dinner, as per the suggestion of my ever-wise uncle (whom I’ve not seen in real life in WAY more than two years–it has been maybe eight or nine?  Thank god for facebook!)  We had an amazing meal–my husband couldn’t decided if he was more thrilled with the fries or the steak smothered in herb butter (butter and steak–his two favorite things), and I was in heaven with a dish of seared scallops over black lentils in a wild mushroom sauce (which, to be fair, must have contained at least some butter, and did in fact contain a few pieces of thick cut bacon).  Best dinner ever.

The given purpose of the mini-trip was to go to the flower show–the actual purpose was to get away from our life for a while and have fun.  And we achieved both goals–the latter more so than the former.  I think all couples need to do this sort of thing from time to time, on whatever scale they can manage.  We simply went to the nearest metropolitan area.  The nearest campground or the farthest, most exotic island, the most obscure small town–all would work equally well, and at some point I hope to visit each of those…and then some.

Ok. That worked.

Whew! I thought blog on the run was done for. I’m having some odd connectivity issues in this hotel, even though I’m only using the 3G. Hmmm. Could be the lovely ‘inside room’ we were given–I thought those only existed on cruise ships. I was wrong.

Anyway, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again–the key to travel blogging is travelling alone. I love my husband, and as such, refuse to spend my time away with him writing my most random thoughts–though I so love writing said thoughts. And as it took me the entire duration of his shower to write these two short paragraphs, I’ll be breaking my own rule again tomorrow. Unless he does not mind me writing as he drives the 180 miles back home. But I think he just might. I sure would.


My post from Friday disappeared, after spending lots of time typing it with my thumbs! And worse, I have no idea what I wrote! This is now a test post; if it does not work this time, I’m finding a new iPhone blogging app.

Reflections from a First Time NCTE Convention Attendee

Well, the first thing I learned was that blogging while AT an actual convention is not very likely.  There simply was not any time, and any spare minutes I had I spent in the exhibition hall and/or standing in line for the restroom (anyone reading this, do not despair, it was not that the lines were so very long, it was that I was so very busy).  But I learned lots of other things, too…things about teaching, teachers, the way conventions work…all kinds of great things that I can’t even make up categories for.  So I will revert to my favorite way to keep something short and sweet…the list.

What I Learned At the NCTE Convention…

1.  I am a shitty teacher.  Well, to be fair, I started to think this probably my second day teaching (seven years ago), but I’m sure of it now.

2.  I can be a better teacher.

3.  I WANT to be a better teacher (that’s a big one).

4.  I now understand why people go to church.  Not that I’m equating the NCTE convention to church, and no, Nancy Atwell is NOT my god.  Nor is Kylene Beers (though Chris Tovani is up there, as is Junot Diaz, oddly…) BUT–people go to church to feel like there is hope in the world.  To be refreshed.  Inspired.  That is what this convention did for me.

5.  There is no way I can organize all that I learned in any format, not for administration to approve, and especially not for this blog, though I really did want to provide some sort of guidance for English teachers thinking of going in years to come.  BUT–the good news is–I can answer all of your questions in one simple sentence–If you are thinking about going for the first time–DO IT!  It exceeded my expectations in so many ways, and was worth all of the time and money it took to get there, and then some.

6.  Aside from all of the touchy-feely crap, I also learned to take really comfortable shoes and a VERY comfortable large bag…or bagS.  Ok, to be perfectly honest, for the very first time in my life, I wished I was the type of person who would be caught dead rolling around one of those wheel-y suitcases when not even in an airport.  To be even more perfectly honest, when I go next year (and I’m going next year), I WILL be taking such a wheel-y suitcase.  Empty, on the plane, to fill up with books.  I spent $8 on books.  That is EIGHT.  No I did not type that incorrectly.  $5 for a hardcover I wanted signed, and $3 for another I thought I was going to get signed (but the line was too long).  I came home with somewhere in the area of 70 books, all young adult, all for my students.  More than half of them are galley copies, which to me is even better, because my kids will get to read the next batch of up-and-coming books before they even, well, ‘come up’.  I could not be more excited about this.

7.  Standing in line is a good thing.  I stood in line for several book signings, and learned a lot just from the people around me.  It is truly great to be surrounded by so many smart, enthusiastic, yet down-to-earth people.  Sorry…I said I was done with touchy-feely.  I’ll stop now.

This is me stopping.

Earlier in the week–via facebook post–I made a comparison between the NCTE convention and Disney World, stating that the former is BETTER than the latter.  Well guess what folks…next year’s convention is in ORLANDO!

NCTE Convention, Philadelphia–Day Two

The first thing I did on my second day here was kiss Doug goodbye for the day. He was spending the day several blocks away at the National Writing Project portion of the conference. And I was genuinely sad to see him go and to know I was to be on my own for the whole day. That feeling lasted…about four minutes. I suddenly realized ‘I was to be on my own for the whole day!’ I could go and do whatever I wanted, and I had a color coded schedule to follow–or not follow, if I chose. What could be better?

The answer to that question–the actual day was better than I could have ever hoped. I found that, with my afore mentioned color coded schedule, I could go from workshop to workshop as I pleased if for any reason I didn’t like the workshop I was in. I strongly suggest the color coded schedule to future conference attendees.

And…here is where I give up typing this on my phone at a convention. There is just too much going on, and Doug just texted me, which caused the last three paragraphs I typed to not save (I’ve decided to let him live…for now) I’ll be breaking my own rule again later, when I return to my precious computer (which I miss very much!)

Journeys of Thought

The following was written in a session titled ‘Journeys of Thought’, an NCTE convention workshop designed to teach teachers how to encourage students to write in order to discover. The first sentence of each section was the given ‘prompt’.

I wonder why I’ve never lived in a big city. I mean, I realize that I often have panic attacks in large crowds, but I imagine that has to go away eventually. There is so much to do in even a smaller large city like Philadelphia–I could spend days just eating at the Reading Terminal Market and not get bored–nevermind all of the great things to buy there to cook, and beyond that, all of the restaurants.

This makes me realize that there still is a part of me that is not afraid to try scary things. I used to be unafraid girl, and I thought I missed that girl–I’d assumed she died–but she’s still there, just buried. I’m not saying I’m going to pick up and move anywhere–and certainly not to Philadelphia.