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Travel the World- Without Leaving Denver

Denver is a city that has no lack of things to do. If you love museums, there are plenty to see. Want architecture? no lack of unique designs from decades of inhabitants. Native American History and art? We have you covered.
Perhaps the best way to experience a mix of old and new, western and global is at the Denver Art Museum.
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My favorite statue in the Native North American art section- I remember them building this in 2011!
I know….art museum…. it’s an intimidating term, yet you don’t have to be an art geek to enjoy what the DAM has to offer. DAM is a unique blend of classic art museum with the joy and enthusiasm of modern delights. Currently, they even have a costume display from the original Star Wars movies!
However, if you don’t have time, or the exhibit is sold out, there are plenty of options and things to see in the permanent exhibits and ones that are included with general admission.
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Trade Canoe for Don Quixote- Jaune Quick-to-see Smith
When I say it’s a chance to see the world, I don’t mean it lightly, they literally have floors of art from around the world and each floor is like another continent waiting to be seen.
While I have taken many trips to the Denver Art Museum, I always find something new. S
Sometimes, it’s when I explore the thousands of pieces of pre-columbian South and Central American art. Often it’s a wonderful and exciting sculpture or pottery piece. This time it was a variety of pins from Peru that were made out of silver spoons, (Manta Spoons) originally brought by the Spanish. They even offered a craft project to make a plastic version for visitors.
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Manta Spoon Pins from Peru, used for hooking cloaks together in decoration and function
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Lily making her own plastic manta spoon
In fact, the entire museum offers craft projects for art fans of all ages through the entire museum. In the Northern Native American art section it was putting together puzzles based on beading designs, and in their fashion displays it was pinning together fashionable designs. All of which my 9 y/o travel buddy loved.
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Casta Painting collection from the Spanish-Colonial period. Casta paintings list what status one had in Latin America based on their ethnic background and skin color. 
If you like asian art, you won’t be disappointed, I am personally always impressed by the sand-art from a group of Buddhist monks that has been preserved. Along with centuries of stone sculpture and pottery. They section off each area to provide cultural context and experience. China, Japan, Middle East, India and Southeast Asia are all represented through natural and historic materials.
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If you love modern art the most, do not despair, because they have constantly rotating and changing displays that inspire through modern methods and art forms.
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Finally, my favorite permanent display is the European art pieces including paintings of nobles, and classic pieces by some of Europe’s most famous painters. Currently they are displaying Treasures of British Art which included “Anthony van Dyck, Benjamin West, Angelica Kauffman, Thomas Gainsborough, Thomas Lawrence, George Stubbs, John Singer Sargent, and Adam Birtwistle.” They also had a Canaletto on display that had been recently restored and to round it out, their main floor display of Venetian artists was to die for.
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Sir Thomas Lawrence- Portrait of a Lady
Titled the Glory of Venice this display showed the progress of Italian art and its significance in combining Danish and Italian and Eastern art for some of the most influential pieces in classic art.
All around if you want a wonderful experience in the mile high city, where everyone will enjoy, love, laugh and be inspired, check out the Denver Art Museum! What is your favorite piece?

If You’re Mourning Carrie Fisher- Laugh

Carrie Fisher the very big Star Wars actor that we knew and loved. The Princess that didn’t needed saving, and that could fire a gun and actually hit her enemies….. well she passed away this week.

Huge Star Wars fan, or not, many of us have taken time to reflect on her contribution to film and women in film. She was also the daughter of another iconic performer, Debbie Reynolds, who they say died of a broken heart the day after her daughter died. Reynolds contributed a hell of a lot in her life too, and the loss of both this week is a blow to film nerds around the world.

Yet, while I am saddened by these losses, I know there is something really cool we can all do right now. It not only honors the memory of these performers, but it also cheers the soul. I did this when Bowie and Rickman died in January, I took to their art and I devoured it. I watched movies and listened to music and loved their art. I’m doing this right now with Fisher.

I just read her book Wishful Drinking over the last 48 hours and I laughed my ass off. It’s a hilarious book, full of comical  (intentional) stories and moments from both Fisher and Reynold’s life. I plan on reading more of Fisher’s work and just enjoying her contribution to the world. Ya know what, she would have wanted it that way.

Weirdly Wishful Drinking is almost prophetic of her own death and passing, but in a loveable way. In a “it’s gonna happen” way. Because, that’s the end for all of us.

Because that’s this planet, this universe, and not so far far away or long long ago. We’re all mortal, and we’re all trapped in that truth.

So, wipe the tears (don’t deny them) and enjoy what artists made when they pass. That was the whole point, a lasting contribution on a world that’s ever changing and temporary. Laugh at their jokes and their writings, and love that we get to live NOW and enjoy these pieces of humor and life. Also cry if you must, that’s okay too. We’re laying to rest and saying goodbye to some friends from our own journey.

From Wishful Drinking:

George comes up to me the first day of filming and he takes one look at the dress and says, “You can’t wear a bra under that dress.”

So, I say, “Okay, I’ll bite. Why?”

And he says, “Because. . . there’s no underwear in space.”

What happens is you go to space and you become weightless. So far so good, right? But then your body expands??? But your bra doesn’t—so you get strangled by your own bra.

Now I think that this would make for a fantastic obit—so I tell my younger friends that no matter how I go, I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra.

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Turn Your Back On Wrong

You know how in school we’re told to stand up for what’s right, even if we’re standing alone?

My parents encouraged this. Which I am profusely grateful. Even if my right is their wrong and vice a versa.

As someone that always took this as 100% the way to live my life, this means I don’t always make friends or peace with those around me. I often tangle with people in my family and people I grew up with. It means that many teary and angry conversations have been had with people I legitimately love, but that I cannot agree with their beliefs.

After the election on Tuesday I removed a lot of these people from my immediate connections. It was a long time coming, but I just couldn’t continue to be confronted with the following:

Bigotry,

Islamophobia,

Homophobia,

Transphobia,

Sexism,

Racism,

Anti-immigrant,

Anti-equality

and the list goes on.

I didn’t unfriend these people because they had a different argument or a different feeling, it’s because they continued to perpetuate inaccuracies and make excuses for hate speech and bigotry. They did this without fact-checking or without reading or without thinking what it means to any one of these groups of people that have been oppressed, abused and mistreated for these identities.

The did not care to research that racism is based on a system of oppression and that there is no such thing as reversed racism. Or that sexism is very well alive and can be proved over and over again. They kept themselves in a bubble that ignored reality, that ignored the tears and pain of those being abused as a result of our systemic problems in this country. It’s not the vote for the talking head, it’s the willful ignorance and hatred that they endorsed and support.

I CAN’T have this in my life, I refuse, and I refuse to make excuses for people that endorse this behavior. I refuse to make excuses so I can stay friendly with people that view me and so many of the people I love and admire as second class citizens.

So here I am, standing for what is right, and I will stand alone if I have to.

I am standing for what is right, which is basic human rights for all people. Which is giving people safety and sanctuary when they have been brutalized. It is standing against continued rape culture and the perpetuation that women or men “make it up” when they’re assaulted. It is standing up against a system that favors jailing minorities over whites that commit the same crime. It’s standing against anti-drug policies that favor abusing and oppressing minorities. It’s making sure women have access and rights to all the things male counterparts have. It’s making sure people of color, LGBTQ, differently-abled and anyone else that has been the victim of oppression is given the right and opportunity to succeed.

I refuse to write off people that haven’t had the opportunities of others. I refuse to view a group of people with hate (including Trump-ites). I refuse to believe any nationality or ethnic group is different, or more prone to, or less than human. I REFUSE. And I refuse to acknowledge others’ hatred as an accurate or even real argument.

I don’t care if one time someone from some group was mean once, or said something once. That’s not a representation of everyone from that group and their behavior sucks, but when you have lived a life treated as less than, sometimes you lash out, sometimes the anger from years of mistreatment boils over. And one becomes mad as hell and has just had enough. I think we have all been there for some reason. We cannot acknowledge one negative action as an example of how everyone behaves. You know this to be true. One kid in the class eats glue, not everyone in kindergarten does.

However, I will listen to REAL arguments and I will listen to real complaints. I will listen to real feelings about being left behind and underrepresented. Because, hey, I feel that way too. However, I also know that the layers to these problems are not from minorities and they are not from immigrants, they are not from foreign governments and they are not from any group that can be scapegoated. If you want to learn with me, then let me know. I’m happy to talk, I’m happy to show you. I’m happy to learn.

I’m happy to take suggestions, ideas and encouragement, but only if they have a standing in reality. I will not, and cannot take your bigotry or your privilege as an argument. Do you understand?

So today I turn my back on hatred and oppression. I don’t turn my back on people, but I will not see their hateful actions on my Facebook or twitter. It’s not a willful ignorance or wanting to shut these people out, but I refuse to be on social media terms with people that post these statement as if they were just a cute cat photo.

It may make no difference in the long run, but you know this poem:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

~Martin Niemöller

I am speaking for those that can’t speak up and maybe someone will speak for me or not, but I am speaking for others now. You should too.

 

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When You Can’t Find It…Make It

I am strictly budgeting my wedding, as a sort of boycott to the extravagance of American weddings.

I am having a hell of a time finding a wedding dress that’s under $700 and that is ACTUALLY a style I want. At this point I am just being picky.

However, I had found “the one” that was about $500 and gorgeous. It was going to be perfect. The company in Ukraine even made it custom to my measurements!

THEN…the dressmaker over DOUBLED the price of the dress

😦

to $1200

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SOOO I will not be ordering that dress

I have also been searching other places for “the dress” but I can’t stand the overpriced and gross polyester nightmares that David’s Bridal sells.

I have looked all over etsy and nothing compares….or I don’t like the neckline

I haven’t seen anything on other websites that blows me away and I want something made from a fabric I can STAND to wear for 9 hours and not sweat all over and feel gross on my wedding day.

Short and curvy I look terrible in strapless

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I want something romantic without being terrible and poofy

I don’t look good in anything without upper support for my large twins….

at this point maybe it would be easier to just make something…..

oh yeah, I do that….

I can sew. I sew pretty well.

I also have been dreaming of making a Chemise A La Reine (18th century style gown)

so….that’s what I’ll be doing.

I just ordered my fabric for $32

Meaning I may make my wedding dress for less than $50….I call it a win

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Land of Enchantment Part III

The final day was spent starting the day with a trip to the last two museums on my list, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture and the International Folk Art Museum. 

The first was home to a massive amount of history and artwork dating back to prehistory and into modernity. It not only showcased the long story and history of native peoples but also the current conflicts and issues that exist. I especially appreciated a section that called out cultural appropriation and stereotypes in modern american culture.

The plaza outside of the museum was equally impressive and an enjoyable visit all on its own. Full of life-size and larger statues it paid testament to native culture, struggle and existence, a story that often is overlooked and misunderstood.

The folk museum provided a great blend of other stories, and the fact it had a folk-art element meant that it reflected the tale of the average person and not that of another identity. Rooms were filled to the brim of a variety of cultural expressions including miniatures, needlepoint, dolls and much more.

After musuem land it was time to PARTY!

We started the events with a surprise mass, and wedding for my great aunt and uncle. We finished with food and sangria at their home in rural Santa Fe. I got to see cousins that live in Germany and England that I don’t usually see and talk with other cousins I didn’t know too well. All around it was a success and very enjoyable for all involved.

And sadly the next morning ment driving home…until next time Santa Fe!

Part I, Part II

 

Land of Enchantment Part II

The second day was an early start to the day and driving to downtown before the tourists invaded. I also wanted to talk to the Native American artists that sat outside by the Palace to sell their goods to locals and tourists alike. This was a great opportunity to learn how the system worked and how it provided artists the chance to make money directly and control their art.

I ended up buying a small pottery egg from a woman that had a turtle and fish on it, representing life and sustainability. The price was great and it felt awesome to support local and small artists. As an artist and from a family of artists, this direct connection meant a lot.

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I talked to others about their goods and how they made things. There were silver workers, pottery masters, jewelry makers, weavers and everything in between. If you want to REALLY shop native goods, then this is the place and the best way to do it.

I then hit a few more shops looking for a thank you to the neighbors for loving on our cat while we were gone and I found a small place that sold local arts such as tin work and jewelry made from dried corn. All of these made great little souvenirs and it was enjoyable to be shopping so early and away from the crowds and chaos.

Before it was too hot I also walked the few blocks around the center of town, photographing and enjoying the soul of the city. One that dripped with art and culture and history. The entirety of it brought me a sense of peace and joy that I miss living in a newer city. The sensation reminded me of the same sensation I receive when I’m in Europe. Traversing ancient pathways and soaking up centuries of movement.

Late that morning some other relatives arrived for the celebrations, so the afternoon was spent eating, talking and doing some more sightseeing.

We spent a significant part of the afternoon looking at the old and famous churches of Santa Fe, including the Loretto Chapel, known for its staircase. Gothic in style the church has a classic charm to it.

Then we visited the OLDEST church in the United States, San Miguel Chapel. Which not only has the claim to being the oldest, but also is home to a 14th century bell from Spain, and some beautiful old art from the colonial time period.

We finished the day at the OLDEST home in Santa Fe, which was perfectly sized for someone short like myself and was a darling walk in the lifestyle of early Europeans that settled in the area.

Finally, we returned my aunt to the hotel and Ryan and I were able to have a date in Santa Fe. Which, naturally,deserved being full of tacos (American-Mexican) and margaritas. We ate the most amazing fish tacos I have ever had at Bumble Bee’s Baja Grill (that also had an awesome Gluten-Free menu. Then we finished with a quick visit the art museum and a walk around the old part of town.

Part I, Part III

Land of Enchantment

A few weeks ago I had the great luxury of being able to go to Santa Fe on a road trip with my fiance. The main reason we were going was for a family get together/surprise 50th anniversary party for my Great Aunt and Uncle, the second reason was the excuse to get away for a long weekend and do something different.

I am very much an artistic and creative person. It’s kind of my reason for living so the chance to go to a city dripping in art, that wasn’t in another country, was like an elixir of joy and artistic energy that I desperately needed. Since graduating from my MA degree things have been…rough, to say the least. So I have been trying to find energy and joy in the small things.

From the Fort, Santa Fe is between a 6-8 hr drive depending on traffic and route and if you obey speed limits.

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We left at 4am on Thursday and got to Santa Fe at about 10:45am with a few pit stops so I could pee, stretch my legs and get a little something to eat. We also stopped at a tourist center in Raton for a few guides on where we were going and what to do.

The nice part about leaving so early was that traffic was minimal and not backed up in Denver and Colorado Springs. This made everything easier and less stressful. It also meant we got to Santa Fe at a good time to get lunch at a local diner called Joe’s, and see the New Mexico History Museum.

Joe’s offered some amazing huevos rancheros ( a go to for me) with the most amazing green chili! Ryan got a bison burger and all around the staff and environment proved to be comforting and tasty. They also offered an EXTENSIVE list of Gluten-Free options (extra win).

The history museum was also a fantastic adventure. Stations off of the plaza in the oldest part of the city it starts in the Palace of the Governor’s and winds into newer buildings as it moved forward in history. The collection of native arts and Spanish influences paints the picture of how New Mexico changed under European influence and they spent a good amount of time discussing the conflicts that it brought. For instance the Pueblo Revolt was very influential in the history of New Mexico and the Americas.

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Casta paintings represented the different “races” and categorized them into hierarchies depending on one’s ancestry of Spanish, Native American or African.

Ryan found much of the military history intriguing and enjoyable and we finished the trip through time reflecting on the Nuclear test sites around New Mexico.

For dinner we ate some food we brought with and stayed the night in the well-priced and well-maintained Super 8 that sat about 15 minutes from downtown. The best part was the artwork that covered the hotel by a P S Romero. The large sun piece over the front desk was the best, and I desperately wish I could own it.

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Added bonus: mini murals were painted throughout the hotel!

Part II

What I’ve Learned From Travelling….

…to be a better traveler.

A friend posted on Facebook just now…which inspired this post, that she, after travelling part of Europe HATED her massive luggage that she took and never wants to travel with it again. To which I reply….well duh!

However, 6 years ago I learned this lesson myself, and have learned it many times since. Travel with less= enjoying more. TRUTH.

I found on my first trip to Europe, 6 YEARS AGO that taking extra crap was a waste of my time and money (you know you have to pay more for heavy bags on planes). I stupidly took books to read (which I never had time to), I took travel guides (now I rip them apart or use my phone) and I took a massive book to put ticket stubs and other crap in (this was EXTRA DUMB) this book weighed about 5lbs and now 6 years past most the ticket stubs have fallen apart or the thermal paper has erased itself….so that was also a waste of time. Anyway my first trip also meant that I bought a shit-ton of books at different places I went, which was well-meaning, but it also meant that I had a hell of a lot of extra weight that I had to ship home or pull all over Europe.

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Oh to be 19, young and stupid…

Since then two more trips to Europe have taught me a lot, and mostly by mistakes.

First of all: DO NOT plan on mailing anything home unless you have like $300 extra to spend because international mailing rates have gone up, up, up. That goes for U.S. or Europe and let’s just say you can throw away a lot of money on knick-knacks and then to send them home, and the reality is YOU ARE BUYING CRAP so STOP!!!!!!!! This also goes back to a philosophy of DO NOT buy people souvenirs unless they are SMALL and light weight and squishable.

Second: Invest in good luggage. Luggage that is lightweight, can take some knocks, can stretch and that maybe has a warranty. My first suitcase barely functions (I keep souvenirs in it) and it started to fall apart halfway through a 2.5 month trip. ALSO- buy one with WHEELS and four wheels that are fully rotating. Even if you don’t do much walking with your luggage, the few hours at the airport make it worthwhile. If you are backpacking, then different rules apply.

Third: Plan for the length you will be gone. For 1 week-3 weeks, take a carry-on or medium suitcase, and plan to do laundry, and pack extra undies. For 1 month+ you’re allowed a larger bag, however if you are traveling a lot (in the moving place to place sense) keep in mind that a backpack may make trains and hostels a lot easier. For longer trips I take a larger bag and only pack it half-full, then there is room for gifts/souvenirs/supplies that I may need. For instance, the Hostel I was at last year in Edinburgh left me FREEZING every night, so I bought a wool blanket that not only helped with the cold, but now I use daily as a throw. Having extra space meant I could bring it home.

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All you need for a month, minus the kitty.

Fourth: Listen to friends/family that have traveled a lot and don’t be too proud to look stuff up. If I had listened to more Samantha Brown and less grandparents/dad’s friends I would have taken WAY less on my first trip and had a better time.

Fifth: Take a big enough bag. It’s a fine line between too much and not enough, but when I went to Italy for my study abroad and lived in Florence 5 weeks, I accumulated a lot of stuff. Such as clothing….because fashion and street markets….. So taking the train to meet some friends to get to Germany was a nightmare. It was stuffed train+ suitcase+ two bags I bought + other random crap….It was bad, and embarrassing and HEAVY. Lesson learned.

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From Paris with Love….

Sixth: Use tech to your advantage. BUY A SMARTPHONE already! Seriously, on my last trip that is all I took was my iphone, leaving back my DSLR and computer. Why? Well usually I LOVE taking lots of photos but for only a week of running around and some extra time with family, my IPhone 6S was PLENTY to take fun photos, stay in touch and pull up maps/directions. Also, buy a GOOD smartphone, and make sure you have international coverage where you go. T-Mobile offers FREE texting and slow data overseas and is about $0.20/min to call. Which is pretty good! If you are going somewhere a long time and think you want to call a lot (I use SKYPE btw) then think about getting an unlocked phone and buying sim cards abroad that you can “top-up” or buy a month-to-month plan. It really helps and in this day a phone can be a lifesaver if you get lost or can’t find a taxi at 3am. Even if you take a DSLR in addition, having the cellphone can lighten your load by leaving the computer at home, and carrying important information (scans of passport etc.) Along with access to people back home. Anyway, just join the 21st century and be savvy. Compared to traveling 6 and even 3 years ago, having a SMARTPHONE make a HUGE difference and is worth the time/headache it saves.

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Seventh: Buy disposable entertainment. MEANING: download audio books/digital books (utilize the library), books you can leave at a hostel, movies that are digital, music that is digital etc. This keeps things lightweight and also if you don’t have time to read, then you don’t have to feel guilty about lugging around the weight.

Eight: Pack minimal clothes and buy new things. I try to leave some room in my budget and suitcase to buy some clothes. This is my “backup” for not only weather conditions and “unknowns” on what might be fashionable or more comfortable for the travel conditions. This acts as an awesome souvenir and a great amount of fun.

Happy Travels!

~Rebecca

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Lifelong Learning- Why We All Should

I was listening to NPR on Sunday, and not that that’s surprising because of all the media I listen to NPR is the most common. Anyway, they were discussing the media bubble that is creating difficulties for NPR to make money and the conflicts of podcasts etc. Which is really interesting and something for another day.

They did say something else that I think may be even more important than that of the money/journalism bubble or at least equally important. They were discussing how NPR and for instance, All Things Considered, was established in the 1970s to promote intelligence and knowledge across the country. To cover minorities and give voice to the voiceless kind of story.  Which I would say they do make real attempts at doing and which is a real reason I try to listen a couple of times a week. Yay *applause*

But then the conversation took a turn to what is the reality of our culture and where real money in the media lies.

Let’s start here, TLC, The History Channel and the Discovery Channel and its subsidiaries were made, in ways, to replicate PBS-style stations. Where there was documentary type learning shows, that depicted and told stories around the world. This is the type of stuff I ate up day after day as a kid. The stuff I loved! Some of it was sappy and a little fluffy like “A Baby Story” or “An Adoption Tale” but other shows that talked about gender-identity and mental conditions or strange medical conditions were fascinating to me. I feel they gave me a more compassionate and thorough understanding to the world. Yet as culture changed and reality TV became more profitable and popular those stations changed to telling those stories.

In the last 10 years we have had Honey Boo-Boo and My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding (an admitted guilty pleasure) and Ice Road Truckers. All of which lack much of the substance of previous shows and station goals. My fiance jokingly calls TLC “The Loser Channel” but I honestly don’t know if that’s too far from the truth. Some of the shows really inspire me to care for people I don’t understand with more compassion, like my 600lb Life, while others leave me buying up stereotypes and inconsiderately dismissing other groups, such as 19 kids and Counting and it’s HUGE sex scandal mess that broke last year.

Ok all of that aside my point is that TV often reflects society like a mirror, and the unfortunate side is that most people embrace this gum-ball machine mess of television of a quarter in and sticky crap that rots your brain out.

What’s most upsetting is that while these shows are consumed and even loved, other REAL programming with great information on radio, TV or other gets bumped out. News even gets mushed up to be click-bait and full of thorough and honest information. Just this week I got into a conversation on Charlie Chaplin on Vice and had the author block me for calling her out on cherry-picking history.

Anyway, that aside I am BEGGING all of you to get out and learn. Something like only 78% of Americans read a book a year. And the number steadily increases for more than 5, 10 etc. There is research to indicate that this next generation will be less educated than any previous, a turnaround from the past. And it’s not just reading that’s important but the ability to think, analyze and understand what is happening around someone.

It’s not even just things that come from a good education but information that can be assessed through alternative means and through independent learning. This means pick-up a book, read a magazine that’s not fluff, have your kids watch a documentary on animals with you. Discuss the universe, have a lunch date with friends and talk about making the world a better place etc. etc. Jump into the fun of learning and take someone with you. You don’t have to make learning your only activity, but make it one that is also a part of your life.

My family, with all its crazy, constantly pushed for learning, and that is something that I will always push for others.

 

Anyone want to borrow a book?

Best,

Rebecca Lee Robinson

Hidden London, the city that you need to see

platform 9 3/4

London, as many great cities are, is full of your typical tourist spots, and one can spend plenty of time hitting museum after museum, and visiting royal sights.

Yet, there is a lot more to see in London, such as unique and vibrant culture in the pubs and waterways that are away from the tourist trail.

Such as the Dickens Inn at St. Katherine Docks. That is an old haunt of, you guessed it, Charles Dickens and in the area that so often found itself in his stories. 

Or haunt around Kings Cross and check out Platform 9 3/4! Along with the Harry Potter shop.

How can I resist? #HarryPotter #london #england

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Even at the big tourist spots there are magical places that sometimes get missed. Such as the 13th century reconstructed palace at the Tower of London.

Not bad for the 13th century #london #medieval #england #historynerd #luxury

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The reality of London is that wandering gets you to some neat places. Some cool shops, some exciting places, interesting people and unique sights. If you can, make a connection with a local, because they will always know a place or two worth exploring.

Happy Travels!

~Rebecca Lee Robinson