Welcome to the second of Present Perfect’s Summer Sessions where I share ten things I’m into right now, particularly while on the road with my kids to Las Vegas and then Flagstaff, Arizona to visit my dad.
1. S-Town Podcast
If you liked the Seriel podcast from This American Life in 2014, you’ll love S-Town.
Just like Seriel, S-Town takes the listener on a riveting journey through the life of an eccentric and brilliant Southerner, John B. McLemore, who approached This American Life investigative reporter, Brian Reed, about investigating a suspected murder in his town in Alabama – “Shit Town”, as it’s referred to by John.
S-Town has been the perfect companion for my long road trips this summer. But parent be warned: The profanity – especially in the first two chapters – is next level. If you’re listening in the car with young passengers, you may want to use a headset.
2. The Grand Canyon
For the second time in my life, I visited the Grand Canyon – this time with my three kids who have never seen it before – and it truly never fails to blow my mind. No photo can truly capture the breadth and depth of this incredible miracle of Mother Nature, but I gave it my best shot.
You never know how kids will react to the things we parents feel our kids should react to; those moments or events that we know have meaning and significance, but that kids often take for granted or even forget altogether as time goes on. For these reasons, I was careful to give enough details to my kids to pique their interest and minimize complaints while not over-hyping the Grand Canyon. Whether that strategy worked or my kids are better sports than I give them credit for, they were appropriately awed and filled with wonder and excitement over the Grand Canyon.
Worried that the climb back up the canyon might prove more daunting for my six year old’s little legs, my dad and I opted to hike only about a mile and a half down into the canyon from the Kaibab Trail on the south rim. Now I know we could have gone deeper – and next time I will – but we went deep enough to appreciate just how beautiful the Grand Canyon really is.
3. My Mind Is For Sale by Jack Johnson
Another companion for my road trips has been Jack Johnson and, in particular, his new song My Mind is For Sale.
Few musicians can set a mood – a contentedly cheerful mood – like Jack Johnson. Even while he gently rebukes us for our failure to protect the environment, it’s hard to feel anything but positive about the world while I’m listening to him; not positive in that ambitious, aspirational, self-improvement way, but in a zen-like, quietly accepting way that calls up the best version of myself.
I have a lot of friends with politics that differ than mine, people with whom I respectfully disagree (and vice versa.) In our current, politically charged environment, it’s easy for both sides to become angry, defensive, and combative – rightly so, in some cases. But, unlike any other time in my adult life, I think we have an opportunity to engage in a healthy dialogue with one another, to ask ourselves the hard questions, to find common ground, to choose peace in our relationships even when we disagree on how to achieve that same peace on a macro level.
Whether you agree with it or disagree his politics, My Mind Is For Sale starts a conversation in a way perhaps only Jack can start it: gently, cheerfully, and respectfully.
4. Layering With Knotted Tees and Tanks
Ever since I saw my now Portland-residing girlfriend, Annie, sport this look on a trip to L.A. last spring, I’ve repurposed it a hundred times over: over maxi dresses, knee-length dresses, with shorts, skirts, and jeans. It’s simple to do, makes great use of my casual basics, and flattering since it defines my waist more than the J.Crew-style half-tucked tee or tank does. Definitely try this at home.
There are few things that make me happier than spending an entire day writing. The hunt for and discovery of the phrase or word or image that best conveys what I want to say is something I never get tired of.
But now that I’m home with three kids most days, it’s almost impossible for me to find the time to write like I want to (and I don’t mean blog posts…I mean REAL writing.)
Like most things, absence makes the heart grow fonder. My longing to write coupled with my limited access to quality writing time has only intensified my joy in and appreciation for the rare window of time I get to do it. It’s the only thing about my kids being out of school that I don’t like.
6. M&M’s World
Who doesn’t love monogrammed candy?
My hairdresser told me about M&M’s World after I told him I’d be in Las Vegas with kids for four days without a clue how I would keep them entertained without spending a small fortune. And it did not disappoint.
The store is so colorful and vibrant, it’s impossible not to feel like, well, a kid in a candy shop. Sporting four floors of candy coated chocolate and paraphernalia in every color in the rainbow and more (20 in all, I believe), M&M World is a kid’s (and chocolate-lovers) dream.
Patrons are allowed to chose up to four different “messages” – a name, monogram, or graphic – to have printed on as few or as many colored M&M’s as they want to. Adorable.
7. Pellet Guns
I don’t really like guns. When I was about twelve years old, my dad took me to a shooting range and I blew a hole in a milk carton the size of a softball, I knew guns weren’t for me. But there’s no better way to respect their power than to shoot a gun…and there are few things more satisfying than aiming at and hitting a target, when the conditions are safe (unless that target is alive or threatening my or my kids’ well-being, but that’s just me.)
My kids and I had a blast popping balloons with a pellet gun in my dad’s heavily-wooded backyard in Flagstaff this week. It requires sharp eyes, a steady hand, a balanced stance, and a even a little intuitive math to be successful, while teaching my kids basic gun safety and a healthy respect for this weapon. I won’t be surprised if my kids ask for some version of a pellet gun to use at home once we get back to L.A.
8. Kiini Bikinis
I can’t tell you how many compliments I received on this Kiini bikini from guests and staff alike at the Mandalay Bay pool last weekend and Slide Rock Park in Sedona this week. (I was also shocked to hear how many women still don’t know about shopbop.com. I’m sure I converted 10 new customers with this bathing suit alone.)
Kiini was developed by Turkish-born, New York City based “world traveler”, Ipek Irgit, after searching the world over (literally) for the perfect bikini that embodies the bohemian vibe she wanted, while still being “modern and chic”. I can’t wait to see how her future collections come together.
9. The Woody Cocktail
I’m referring to the semi-famous Woody cocktail, created by and served at the Jonathan Club Beach Club for god-knows-how-many years.
I mentioned the drink in last week’s post and have since taken to making them at home (and in the home of anyone who will grant me access to their blender). They are refreshing without being too sweet and a great way to cool down in the summer heat.
To make one, mix equal parts orange juice, passion fruit juice, and vodka, then add a splash of grenadine for color. You can shake it in a martini shaker or serve it over ice, but I think they’re served best blended. I am unschooled in the art of blended drinks since I don’t usually make (or like, frankly) my cocktails blended, but have since learned that a properly blended drink uses about two times the amount of ice as everything else, so for every 8 oz. cocktail, you should use about 16 oz. of ice. Garnish with a lime wedge and consume.
Try it and let me know how you like it!
10. Spending Time with My Dad
I’ve spent more time with my dad in the last ten months than in the last five years combined. While my mom was alive, her illness prevented us from spending much time together and when we did, my mom’s big personality and long list of grievances about her health tended to dominate the air time. I miss my mom, but the truth is, I’m experiencing my dad in a way I don’t think I could have if she were still alive. Silver linings.
I don’t always agree with my dad and I’m seeing sides of him I never knew were there – whether that’s because they’re newly emerging or because they were simply hidden behind my mom’s largess and his preoccupation with caring for her, I don’t know. But I like it.
One thing I’m not into: being away from my husband for this long. Charlie and I haven’t spent more than a couple days apart since we were married – hell, since we met – and it’s not something I plan on doing again any time soon. I miss him! (And single-parenthood is for the birds.)
The kids and I have had some great adventures, but all good things must come to an end and I’m looking forward to being home.
Thanks for reading!