Best Aquariums in the U.S.

Long time no speak! I’ve had a crazy few months – girls in school, girls home schooled, one girl in, one girl out. I think the public school system wants to kill me. For now, both girls are in school and both are happy, so I’m happy. PHEW. The only thing now, is that I really miss them! I miss planning field trips and hanging out with other homeschool moms (and a few dads) and their kids who we’ve become so close with. So I’ve made a point of staying involved in the homeschool community and of still taking the girls on mini fieldtrips on Sundays and after school.

Last year we were all into zoos, and this year it seems like aquariums have stepped up to bat.

(Thank you Forbestraveler.com for the list!)

Enjoy these and have a whale of a time! (Katie just saw that and rolled her eyes.)
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Public Menorah lightings

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to all! On Sunday night (the first night of Hanukkah) I went to the public lighting of the world’s largest menorah. It was a 32 foot, 4000 pound steel candelabra with gas lamps in a windproof casing. It was designed by Israeli artist Yaakov Agam, inspired by the original menorah that was in the Holy Temple of Jerusalem almost 2000 years ago. Mayor Bloomberg lit the wicks, symbolizing the first of eight nights of the Jewish festival of lights. There was quite a crowd there on the corner of 59th St. and 5th Ave., right near Central Park. This menorah, and about 700 more located all over the world are organized by the Chabad organization and this year have the added significance of standing strong in honor of those who were killed in the recent Mumbai terrorist attacks.

Another popular New York City public lighting took place on Sunday night at Washington Square Park.

The other “world’s largest menorah” is lighting up Washington, D.C. It’s located on the Ellipse, just across from the White House.

Other large scale lightings are taking place all week long in Santa Monica, San Francisco, Honolulu, and Chicago, as well as in 732 more cities in 47 countries worldwide.

Check out this youtube video

from the Chabad of Malibu about their candle lighting initiative. And if you’re curious as to HOW to attend a public lighting, ehow’s got you covered.

Happy holidays!
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Jackson Hole, Wyoming – not such a hole after all

Done with business school, got a little wild vacation after it, and now I’m back to work with the occasional “business trip” in tow. I have a lot of work that I need do from home, and when that piles up high enough, I take it away with me somewhere nice to do it in peace away from the city. I write off most of it as business expenses.

All that was by way of introduction to my current lodgings at Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa. I don’t take travel lightly and I figure that if I’ve got the money I should spend it. I don’t stay in big, fancy hotels because I don’t like them; but I stay in nice ones.

So I’m in Jackson, Wyoming, right near Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park.

I spend half of every day working and the other half either hiking (I’ve hired a private guide to show me the best of the best in a limited amount of time) or I’m in the spa relaxing. This is my kind of vacation—out in nature, with fresh air and wildlife, but not too far from a luxury room and my laptop.
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Flashback to my Dolly Parton days…

I was never SO into Dolly, but a few years back I went through a little Dolly phase that brought me around Tennessee to all the famous Dolly hotspots.

So first on the list is Dollywood, one of the cheesiest and happiest places on earth. I don’t know why I’ve been thinking about Dollywood so much lately. I think it’s because part of my wanted to spend part of my precious time in Tennessee (during recent visit) at Dollywood, but I didn’t give in to myself, and now I sort of regret it. I’ve been to the National Gospel Convention there every year for the past few years, and will be sad to miss it this time ‘round. And we’re going to miss KidsFest this year, which bums me out (much more than it bothers my kids). And the kids loved Dolly’s Splash Country.

I was never a tourist in Nashville, but whenever we had friends coming for a visit or passing through, we always sent them (and sometimes accompanied them) on one of Nashville’s music history tours that took visitors to the estates of Dolly Parton, Kix Brooks, and others.

Atlanta’s got great shopping (better than Nashville’s as a whole) but I do miss Broadway Avenue which I grew up with as the best “big city” shopping in the area. I used to love going into old record stores and browsing through piles and piles of old music. And if you go to Manuel Exclusive Clothier, they make a big deal about being responsible for dressing Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash, so that’s fun.

Nashville’s public transportation system is called the Music City Star—I’ve even feeling nostalgic for that, and barely ever rode it!

Dolly Parton was born in Sevierville, Tennessee (near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park which is a beautiful place to visit, if you’ve never been) and at an early age was making TV appearances and performing at the Grand Ole Opry. In Tennessee, that’s a huge accomplishment for a child. In Dollywood there’s a replica of the house where Dolly and her 10 brothers and sisters lived, it’s tiny and inspiring, how someone who grew up with so little of what we now consider necessities made it so big in the world and now provides so much for others who grew up like she did.

Dolly is not just a sex icon and a country singer, though. I’m most impressed with her Imagination Library project which sends one book a week to children from the time they are born until Kindergarten.

My heart breaks when I hear the song Just Because I’m a Woman, one of Dolly’s first hits and one of my favorite songs to listen to when I’m feeling down. Here are the lyrics (from http://www.dollyon-line.com/); I’m sure every woman can relate:

I can see you’re disappointed
By the way you look at me
And I’m sorry that I’m not
The woman you thought I’d be

Yes, I’ve made my mistakes
But listen and understand
My mistakes are no worse than yours
Just because I’m a woman

So when you look at me
Don’t feel sorry for yourself
Just think of all the shame
You might have brought somebody else

Just let me tell you this
Then we’ll both know where we stand
My mistakes are no worse than yours
Just because I’m a woman

Now a man will take a good girl
And he’ll ruin her reputation
But when he wants to marry
Well, that’s a different situation

He’ll just walk off and leave her
To do the best she can
While he looks for an angel
To wear his wedding band

Now I know that I’m no angel
If that’s what you thought you’d found
I was just the victum of
A man that let me down

Yes, I’ve made my mistakes
But listen and understand
My mistakes are no worse than yours
Just because I’m a woman

No, my mistakes are no worse than yours
Just because I’m a woman

So just a little reminiscing…we all need that sometimes. By the way, I came across a fun blog post that has great pictures of Dolly’s model house in Dollywood and some fun facts about Dolly Parton. Julia (the author of the blog, a self proclaimed real-estate junkie) also gives a list of other famous houses, in fact that’s the theme of her blog—fun!


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