Insta-August

augustIG

1. We got a puppy! Even though we’ve only had him for a little over a month, we’re head-over-heels for our Gus. It was a total coincidence, but we just happened to get him on Eli’s birthday. It’s going to be hard to top a puppy next year!

2. The highlight of our summer is the Indiana State Fair. When we planned our trip to Spain, the first question the kids asked was, “We won’t miss the fair, will we?” We went 3 times and it still doesn’t feel like enough.

3. Eli and I spent an afternoon at Colts Training Camp at Anderson University. The guys from the MMQB Training Camp Tour were there (sadly we missed Peter King) that day. Eli was ready to leave me in the dust and ride off to Green Bay with the boys in the fancy RV.

4. Is there anything better than closing down the pool with one of your best buddies?

5. The kids went back to school mid-August. Elena is officially too old for a back-to-school photo shoot, especially at 7 am. Eli, as you can see, feels differently.

6. Elena and I at Symphony on the Prairie. We went with my sister, and spent most of the evening down on the dance floor dancing to the tunes of ABBA.

7. See that smile on Eli above? That quickly faded when he realized 1st grade meant some kind of homework nearly every day (BOO). The one homework task he never minds? Reading out loud to Gus.

8. If I had a dollar for every time I thought to myself, “I have the world’s best neighbors,” I’d be able to buy a house on the beach. But I wouldn’t … because, hello? World’s best neighbors! We decided to ditch the boys and have a girls’ night out downtown. SO FUN. I just adore these girls.

9. “You want us to squirt shaving cream on our heads and throw cheese puffs at each other?” Just another day in the life of kid whose mom is a blogger. The end result was this fun post I did for Bedtime Math.

10. My last day at The Container Store, after working there nearly 3 years. I feel lost on Wednesday nights, when I always went in to unload our truck shipment. Man, I miss those people. But man, do I wake up feeling refreshed on Thursday mornings now.

11. We ate churros nearly every day in Spain, so the kids have been jonesing for them in a bad way. I finally tried my hand at making them one Sunday  morning. I’m not sure where I went wrong, but the end result was a pan full of exploding churros. I’m still finding random bits of churro dough and oil in my kitchen. There were churros on the ceiling, y’all! Thankfully I walked away with minimal injuries (a few burn marks on my face and feet). Mike took over the duties as fry cook and managed to keep the churros where they belonged – intact in the pan, and – finally – in our bellies.

12. We organized our first annual cul-de-sac fantasy football draft. Because nothing brings neighbors together like good, old-fashioned smack talk.

If you’re not already following me on Instagram already, please do! You can find me there as (the one and only) AngieSix.

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Traveling With Kids: Toledo, Spain

In June of 2014 my family spent a month traveling through Spain and London. Each week I’m highlighting our individual destinations, giving you tips on traveling with kids and sharing some of the best things we discovered. You can find previously published travel posts on my Travel Page. You can find all the photos from our trip on my flickr page. 

family travel toledo spain

When we first sat down to plan our month in Spain, I had grand visions of visiting every region of Spain. And then reality set in. A month is a long time, allowing much more time and opportunity to travel than the average tourist, but still … you just can’t see an entire country in a month. At least not while traveling with kids and trying to maintain your sanity.

Once I came to terms with reality, I had to pare down the list of places I’d deemed “Must Visit.” This was especially hard for our time in Madrid. Madrid is an excellent base for taking day trips to some of the coolest cities in Spain. You’re at the hub of some wonderful and affordable transportation options by train or bus. You can easily rent a car, and while I wouldn’t drive in Madrid if my life depended on it, traveling by car in Spain is very easy. Within a few hours of Madrid, you can visit Segovia, Toledo, El Escorial, Avila, Cordoba, and Salamanca.  With only four days in Madrid, and lots of coming and going in our near future, I had to narrow it down to one day trip. Toledo, with its beautiful views, stunning cathedral, history of weaponry, and delicious sweets was the winner. Clearly Toledo had something for everyone in our family!

We arrived by car around 10 am. It’s nearly impossible to park in the old part of the city (where you’ll most likely be visiting), and even if parking was plentiful you’d still be crazy to navigate the narrow, winding streets. We watched in utter disbelief as a garbage truck backed its way into one street, leaving roughly the width of a cat’s whisker on either side of the truck and the building walls.

Toledo Spain narrow streets

Be sure to grab a map of the city at the Tourist Information (TI) office, but also be sure to get lost at some point. You won’t regret it. Toledo isn’t huge, and the gift of wandering the “wrong” way and exploring the side streets is one you won’t forget. Knowing our time and window of energy with kids was somewhat limited, we planned to visit three attractions.

museo santa cruz toledo

First up was the Museo Santa Cruz. The draw here is the world-class collection of El Greco paintings. We happened to time our visit with the 400th anniversary of the death of El Greco. That sounds cool, but what it meant for us is that we didn’t get to see many of his best-known paintings. While they’re normally on display for all to see, in honor of the anniversary the museum was hosting a special exhibit featuring them, and the tickets were already sold out of the day.

museo santa cruz el greco

The museum wasn’t a bust in any way, though. It has an extensive collection of artifacts from prehistoric and Roman times. Elena had just wrapped up a study of the Romans in school, so she really enjoyed seeing things she’d read about. She declared this museum as her favorite part of Toledo. We did get to see a few El Greco paintings, along with a gorgeous display of Spanish tiles. The courtyard isn’t too shabby, either.

museo santa cruz courtyard

Be sure to look out the window in the room with the tile exhibit. You can still see the damage from the bullets that flew from the building across the street during the Spanish Civil War.

Museo del Ejército Toledo

Next up was Eli’s favorite museum: Museo del Ejército (the Army Museum). Toledo is known for its swords, and there must be a thousand swords in this museum, along with every kind of gun, knife, cannon and armor you can imagine. In other words, a 6-year-old boy’s dream come true.

Museo del Ejército Toledo spears

Museo del Ejército Toledo armor

We saved the best attraction for last: the cathedral.

cathedral toledo spain

We knew we wouldn’t be torturing the kids with visits to one cathedral after another in Europe, so we wanted to make sure we saw one of Spain’s finest. It didn’t disappoint.

cathedral toledo sala capitular

Okay, let me clarify: it didn’t disappoint the adults. Perhaps we should’ve visited here first, before the kids were dog tired. Perhaps there’s no hope for 6-year-olds to ever enjoy a cathedral. Pausing to read some of the interesting bits in Rick Steves’ guidebook did help some, but the kids simply weren’t fans. That didn’t stop Mike and me from walking around with our jaws on the floor, though.

cathedral toledo sacristy el greco

cathedral toledo stained glass

So to sum up Toledo …

How much time should you allocate? A full day is plenty, especially with kids. Toledo is about an hour south of Madrid by car or bus, 30 minutes by train.

Must-see: Definitely the cathedral, and anything by El Greco.

View of Toledo Spain

Best tip: If driving, park in one of the underground parking lots just outside of the old city on the north side. Yes, you’ll pay, but the car will stay cool and you’ll be steps away from where you want to be. That won’t seem like much when you get there, but at the end of the day you’ll thank me. You get the added bonus of taking the world’s longest escalator ride up to the city (Eli, who is mildly obsessed with escalators, declared the ride up these “the best day of his life.” Cathedral = boring, escalators = best thing he saw in Europe. Sigh). There’s a saying that all of Toledo is uphill, and after a day of walking around there I believe it. Our poor, American legs, as of yet unaccustomed to all of the walking, were jello by the end of the day.

Best Things We Ate: I really, really wish I could name a fantastic restaurant or tapas bar for you to eat at in Toledo. I’m almost embarrassed to admit what we ate for our main meals: Mexican and McDonalds. I know, I know … The Mexican was merely a snack, to hold everyone off until we got through the Army Museum and could eat a proper meal. However this was our first lesson in the cardinal rule of eating in Spain: DO NOT MISS THE LUNCH WINDOW. We did, and at 3 pm found ourselves starving and with nary a place open to eat. Except McDonalds or Burger King.

mazapan Toledo Spain

I can, however, recommend a sweet treat you must try: the mazapán, a candy made from sugar or honey and almond meal, Toledo is well-known for it. We got ours at Santo Tomé, across from the Plaza Zocodover. Grab a few pastries from there while you’re at it. Your belly will thank you.

Toledo Spain shops

¡Hasta luego, Toledo!  Next up: a trip to the land of Harry Potter! We fly to London on Ryanair and live to tell about it.

 

 

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Reorganizing and Saying Goodbye

Goodbye Container Store

A little over 3 years ago, I read a snippet in the paper that Indianapolis was getting a Container Store. I’m not sure if “squee” was a word yet (did it appear before or after “selfie?”), but if it was, that’s what I did. I’ve loved The Container Store as a consumer for a very, very long time, from the days when I only had a dorm to organize.

I never intended to go back to work when I did, but the opportunity to work for The Container Store, a company that has been included in the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For 15 years in a row, was too good to pass up. I wanted to be a part of something special, a company that stands for something, and I wanted in at the very beginning.

It’s not easy to get hired at The Container Store. As part of their Foundation Principles, they believe that 1 great person = 3 good people, and the interview process proves it. I had four interviews for my part-time job before I was hired! What that means in practice is that I’ve spent the last 2 1/2 years working alongside some of the best, brightest, hard-working, funniest, and kindest people I’ve ever met. When you walk into The Container Store in Indianapolis, and someone in a blue apron greets you? I promise they are the best of the best, some of my favorite people in the world.

The Container Store Indianapolis

Just as I never intended to go back to work when I did, I certainly didn’t intend to turn in my apron last week. But things are changing, both for Mike and me, professionally. They are changing in the best of possible ways, but sometimes that means letting go of things you love. And for me, that meant that I had to say goodbye to working at The Container Store.

Everyone jokes about how much I’m going to miss that discount (And believe me, I will! It’s a damn good discount.), but it’s the people that I’m going to really miss. You’ll have to forgive me, because I’m about to go faux-Oscar speech on you, but I can’t say goodbye without giving a very special message of thanks to the motley crew of coworkers that made up our merchandise processing team.

Nearly every Wednesday for the last 2 years I’ve spent my evenings sweating, swearing and laughing with my team. It’s not an easy task. We have roughly 3 hours to unload a semi-truck. There are tiny boxes. There are giant boxes. If we’re lucky there are lots and lots of pallets. And stack baskets. Mountains of teetering, won’t-stay-put stack baskets. It could be miserable (and sometimes it is). But for some crazy reason, I looked forward to these late night shifts more than any other. I’ve never laughed so hard at work as I have with these people. Week in and week out, we opened up those truck doors and thought, “Impossible.” And week in and week out we made it happen, and we had fun doing it. You learn a lot about a person when it’s midnight and they’re covered in sweat and swimming in cardboard. And I learned that these are great people.

It might not seem like a big deal. After all, it’s just a store. But it’s a store that matters to a lot of people, and it’s a job that my coworkers take a lot of pride in. I have no idea what opportunities lie ahead for me, but I will always be grateful for the opportunities I was given at The Container Store, and the friends I made while working there. I’ll miss you guys. The stack baskets? Not so much. But you TCS people? You’re the best.

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