Month: August 2013

Summer Reading 2013, Continued: The Unwinding

American journalist, novelist, and playwright George Packer wrote one of the most insightful works about America’s invasion and occupation of Iraq in his 2005 book The Assassins’ Gate:  America in Iraq. So when I heard that Packer had a new work out on the demise of the American social contract, I quickly picked it up and added it to my summer reading pile. The Unwinding:  An Inner History of the New America is a very important work by a gifted observer and interpreter of American life.  It is not light summer reading.  Packer’s work can be hard to read – not because it is dense (it is anything but).  The Unwinding is difficult because almost any reader of this work is likely to find someone captured on its pages who represents his or her way of thinking and his or her life, and realizes the sad place we all find ourselves in today. Packer’s work follows about ten individuals – most not well-known – over the course of the last 30 years, during the time …

Listening and the Labyrinth: A Day of Silent Retreat at Dayspring

Candice was the final family member to introduce her activity to us in this year’s “plan your own vacation.”  We had spent a wonderful weekend in Pittsburgh to check another ballpark off my bucket list and took in Fallingwater on the way home.  Andrew has now taken us to three of his four ethnic restaurants as he worked to expand our culinary horizons.  (Tonight’s visit to Mike Isabella’s new Greek restaurant Kapnos tops the list in my book…and was the best Greek food I’ve had in quite some time.) We arrived home yesterday from three days at the beach – courtesy of Claire – and threw in an outdoor viewing of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off for good measure. So the bar was high as Candice took control. For twelve years, Candice has been a regular participant in Quiet Days and Ember Day silent retreats at Dayspring, a beautiful rural oasis in Montgomery County.  The Retreat Center was begun as a place for Sabbath rest and reflection by the ground-breaking Church of the Saviour, established in …

Beach Bums and Ferris Bueller…A Perfect Combination

We’ve been beach bums during our staycation for the past three days…and it has been wonderfully relaxing.  A short three-day-two-night jaunt to nearby Bethany Beach, Delaware was Claire’s contribution to the “let the family build a stay-at-home (almost) vacation around activities each wants to do.” So, what did we do? Not much. We laid out on the beach for hours on end, reading, enjoying the breezes, and getting up for an occasional Kohr Brothers frozen custard cone.  (Make mine vanilla, dipped in chocolate, please.)  We walked around the town at night.  We ate really good food (truly) both nights…but the best was at Patsy’s in Bethany Beach on Tuesday evening.  I was able to have my soft shell crabs.  We watched a good friend and her group compete on America’s Got Talent (a first for me…and probably a last). Claire thought it would be funny to post the picture of Candice and me walking down the street with the title of “Matching Parents” on Instagram…and immediately picked up a number of “likes.”  Candice and I …

That’s More Like It

In a year of struggles, today’s Nationals/Phillies series wrap-up was one of the feel-good games of 2013. The day:  Beautiful late afternoon game at the ballpark with 32,355 other fans…including Andrew!  Third game in 8 days, and second with Andrew.  (Can you tell I’m on vacation!) Temps in the low 80s, and Section 313 starts out in the shade!  Smart decision to take the scorecard. Even the President’s Race was funny: each president wipes out Sharknado (don’t ask…something to do with the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week), Bill Taft gives him a body slam for good measure, and Teddy wins. On to the game itself… Stephen Strasburg:  First career complete game and a shutout for good measure.  No Philly makes it into scoring position. Totally dominant. Ten strikeouts. One walk. 99 total pitches – 66 strikes. Jayson Werth:  Second three-hit game in a row. Hitting ropes to left field.  Werewolf in London walk-up music shows he doesn’t take himself too seriously. Scores – along with Ian Desmond – on one of the best hustle/heads-up plays of the …

Summer in the City

Taking a vacation in  your hometown – or a staycation as it is commonly referred to – can be a great experience when you live in a city as rich in talent and activities as Washington. Earlier this evening Candice, Andrew, and I enjoyed dinner at the Irish Inn at Glen Echo (technically, Andrew only joined us for tea at the end of the meal) and then walked next door to the wonderful Glen Echo park to take in the free Thursday evening concerts.  Tonight’s entertainment came via the Rockville Swing Band, and they had the old bumper car pavilion jumping.  It was hard to know where to keep your eyes – on the musicians or on the terrific dancers, some of whom were in their late 70s and still cutting the rug with the best of them. We were in Glen Echo because Claire was wrapping up a six-week glass blowing course.  Claire decided that she wanted to take two arts classes – totally non-credit – over the summer just to feed her curiosity …

Summer Reading 2013, Part II: Or How the Nats Lost Their Way

Technically, I read Shawn Green’s unique little memoir/meditation The Way of Baseball before summer began, but after a night at the ballpark watching our Nats utterly fold in a three-game series sweep by the division leading Braves and reading Tom Boswell’s insightful (as always) column about how this year’s season went so wrong, I was reminded of how much I enjoyed this book. Let’s begin with Boswell and the Nats. For two-thirds of a season we’ve been told that the Nats had “too much talent” to keep playing this poorly, and that they would switch it on in time to get back in the pennant race.  But the Braves put an end to that kind of talk, with as utterly dominating a three-game series as you could have where the total run differential was only 5 runs for the three games.  Boswell put it best when he described the sweep as “an execution by proper execution.” Amen. The Nats played so effortlessly last year that it is easy to forget how difficult baseball can be …

My That’s Spicy!

In planning this year’s staycation, everyone in the family picked one thing (or a series of related things) for the family to experience.  Andrew’s contribution?  Why four nights of ethnic dining in and around the Washington area. First up:  Lucy’s Ethiopian Restaurant in Silver Spring! Andrew and Claire have both discovered Ethiopian food over the past year, and they love it.  For Candice and me, it was a first. The Washington Post recently had a strong review of Lucy’s which we took along for the evening, and the reviewer sent us toward some terrific tasting dishes. Between the four of us we enjoyed lamb, beef, collard greens and a wonderful misir wot dish (or split lentils). Lucy’s is fast gaining a reputation as one of the best Ethiopian restaurants in the region, with food that is spicy and delicious.  But if you chose to go, just remember – you can leave your knife and fork at home.  Thanks to the injera (a spongy bread) for wrapping, this is all finger food. Enjoy. More to come… …