Category Archives: Travel

Boston Trip

I just thought I’d share a few photo highlights from my recent Boston trip. My friend Amy Chaplin (of PianoPantry.com) and I drove well over 10 hours from our respective homes in Indiana and Ohio to receive training in the Piano Certification Course sponsored by the Gordon Institute of Music Learning (GIML).

Here is a photo of Amy and I standing in front of Brookline Music School, which is hosting the training.

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Brookline Music School is a nonprofit which has been in operation for over 90 years. Their building is a beautiful old Victorian home.

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We are learning so much. Each day, we arrive at Brookline Music School by 9am. The day’s activities wrap-up at 4:30pm. We have a 45-minute lunch break each day. It was like being back in school!

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Each evening, there are reading assignments and other assignments. It’s a very intensive course. We are learning so much.

During class, we move, sing, chant rhythms, listen to lectures, discuss, share, ask questions, etc…. It’s wonderful.

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Our teachers for this course were Marilyn Lowe, Jennifer Fisher, and intern Janna Olson.

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Marilyn is the author of the Music Moves for Piano method, the only piano method to-date that is based on Edwin Gordon’s work.

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We spent class time listening to lectures, discussing learning theories, and participating in movement and singing activities.

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In the evenings, we studied and read from Dr. Gordon’s tome, “Learning Sequences in Music.” Eating cannoli made the studying even sweeter.

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Each day, we were assigned to compose a melody in a particular mode (major, harmonic minor, dorian, phrygian, etc.). The following day, we shared our melodies with the group.

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Between the two weeks of training, we found time to explore Boston.

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Here we are exploring the Harvard campus in Cambridge.

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And here is a group of us enjoying dinner at a classmate’s home nearby. (Thanks for hosting, Rachel!)

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Here I am with Marilyn, after receiving certification.

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And here I am with my travel buddy, Amy Chaplin of PianoPantry.com.

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By the way, Amy and I used Airbnb.com to find a place to stay during the course. This was our first experience using Airbnb, and I can happily say it was a positive one. We stayed in a third story of an old Victorian home. Our apartment was absolutely perfect for us. I definitely intend to use airbnb for future trips.

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Here is a group photo of our entire class.

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In upcoming weeks and months, I look forward to incorporating what I learned into my teaching. Music Learning Theory (MLT) is an incredible philosophy with huge implications for our teaching. There are going to be a number of things that will be changing about my teaching going forward as a result of becoming more familiar with MLT.

San Antonio 2016 (3/4): Friday, April 8

Day 3: Friday, April 8, 2016

[Click here to go back to Day 2.]

We planned our Friday activities around being able to drive out further from downtown San Antonio using a rental car. Put on your seat belt — I have lots of photos to show you!

We started the morning by driving south to Mission Espada, one of five missions on the so-called Mission Trail.

The missions were communities surrounded by stone walls established and run by Spanish Franciscan missionaries in the 1700s. The priests converted and trained the local Native Americans to become citizens of the mission. They learned the Catholic faith and the Spanish language.

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San Antonio 2016 (1/4): Wednesday, April 6

The Music Teachers National Association held its annual conference in San Antonio, TX this year, from April 1-6, 2016. I blogged all about the conference sessions I attended here at ColorInMyPiano.com on my blog for piano teachers. Here, I’ll share now about the “mini vacation” that followed with Paul.

DAY 1: Wednesday, April 6

Paul’s flight arrived in San Antonio around noon. My friend, Susan Hong, and I picked him up at the airport and then she dropped us off at our hotel. We stayed at the O’Brien Historic Hotel, just a couple minutes’ walk from the riverwalk area downtown.

First order of business: find lunch for Paul! We found a small Mexican restaurant in the historic La Villita area. Paul ordered some brisket and avocado tacos as well as some chorizo and egg tacos.

I was excited to show Paul the beautiful riverwalk area. We spent a few hours just walking, wandering, and exploring.

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Palm Springs 2016 (3/3)

[Click here to read Day 1 or Day 2.]

Day 3

On Thursday, we enjoyed a slow, peaceful morning on the patio before venturing out to explore the thrift shops and antique stores in Rancho Mirage. We didn’t buy much, but had a nice time anyway. We ended up in downtown Palm Springs at the end of our shopping excursion, where we visited Great Shakes to cool off with a Date Shake and a Blueberry Hill shake (blueberry, lemon, and lavender).

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We sipped our shakes and wandered the streets. Near the Chamber of Commerce, we came across a tiny, historical general store. It was once a private collection of original goods and products dating from the 1800s through the 1940s. Now, the collection can be viewed for just 95 cents per entry.

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We drove back to the condo to enjoy leftovers for lunch. We soaked up some more sun on the patio and then ventured out to a nearby hiking trail known as the “Bump and Grind”.

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It was very steep walking, but the view was beautiful.

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When we returned, I went for a run before our dinner at Sammy’s Woodfire Pizza. There, we enjoyed some of the best pizza I’ve ever had, followed by mini donuts for dessert.

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On our route home, we drove through the El Paseo Shopping District to admire the fancy storefronts and the unique artwork along the streets.

Before bed, I packed my luggage. Our fourth and final day was mostly travel: driving our rental car back to the Ontario airport and flying through Vegas to Detroit. Everything went smoothly in spite of high wind advisories in the Midwest, and we arrived back home in Perrysburg around 1am.

It was a wonderful getaway!

Palm Springs 2016 (2/3)

[Click here to read Day 1.]

Day 2

Paul seemed to have no problem adjusting to the three hour difference between the time zones, but my body decided I needed to wake up every day by at least 4:30am — which was 7:30am back home. I dozed in bed or spent time on the internet each morning until Paul woke up.

The good news is that I won’t have any trouble adjusting back to the Eastern time zone when we get back!

On Day 2 (Wednesday), we spent the majority of the day at the Joshua Tree National Park. We left around 8am to drive 45 minutes to the park’s south entrance.

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The park features the meeting of two different deserts: the Colorado Desert and the Mohave Desert. Each desert features a unique type of vegetation. It was neat to see the progression of change in the sights as we drove through the park. First, here are the photos of the Colorado Desert.

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Close up of a cactus.

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At various points during the drive, there are pull-offs, some with hiking trails of 15 minutes to 3 hours.

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We saw a lizard. 🙂

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This trail featured “Skull Rock.”

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At this point, we entered the Mohave Desert, which means we started seeing Joshua Trees!

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A desert flower.

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This pull-off area, Keys View, featured an elevation of 5185 feet. We could see Palm Springs and the San Andreas Fault in the distance.

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My favorite area was Barker Dam. Here, early settlers had built a dam for their cattle.

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During the hike to the dam, we also got a view of hieroglyphs on the cliff.

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The Joshua Trees are all so unique!

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We left the park through the west entrance. Below is a map of our drive through the park (click to enlarge).

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We drove an hour to get back into Palm Springs and then made a quick stop at a little sandwich shop called The Sandwich Spot to split a sandwich. We ordered the Djokovich: turkey, bacon, avocado, cheddar, and a garlic vinaigrette on Dutch Crunch bread. It was a fantastic sandwich!

Back at Grandma’s condo, we chatted on the patio for awhile. I decided to go for a short run while Paul decided to squeeze some fresh lemonade. The many fruit trees within Grandma’s country club feature oranges, grapefruit, lemons, kumquat, and clementines — and it’s all free for the taking to anyone in the community.

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After a shower and lemonade, we went to Talay Thai-Dim Sum Restaurant to enjoy some Thai food. The Yellow Curry was to die for, but we also enjoyed sharing Pineapple Fried Rice and Drunken Noodles.

Back at the condo, we enjoyed each other’s company in the living room and chatted.

Click here for Day 3.

Palm Springs 2016 (1/3)

Paul and I just got back from a lovely — albeit too short — trip to Palm Springs, California. Having $400 worth in travel vouchers about to expire prompted us to schedule the trip! Paul’s grandma lives out here during the winter, so we were thrilled to be able to visit and stay with her.

What follows is our travel journal of this trip.

Pseudo-Day 1

Our flight was supposed to fly out on Monday morning on February 15; however, we were very disappointed to encounter a horrendously long line at the Southwest Airlines counter. We quickly learned that the reason for the huge backup was due to dozens of travelers in need of rebooked flights because of a snow storm that passed through Chicago overnight. Unfortunately, those necessary rebookings caused many other travelers to get stuck in line unable to check their bags, and therefore miss their flights.

This is exactly what happened to us. Despite arriving at the airport at 6:15am for a 7:30am flight, we stood waiting in line with our bag until 10am before reaching the counter. The clerk rebooked us for the next earliest flight, which was the following day at 6:30am.

We took the shuttle back to our car with disappointment, but we resolved to make a fun day out of our Monday off nonetheless. We decided to spend the night with Paul’s mom in Ypsilanti so we wouldn’t have to travel far to get to the Detroit airport in the morning.

Using my iPhone, I searched for thrift stores and antique stores in the area. We visited a few interesting stores and came home with a assortment of old buttons and an old sewing machine drawer to use for decoration.

For lunch, we found a Cuban restaurant in Ann Arbor called Frita Batidos. Paul ordered a frita (a frita is a Cuban version of the American hamburger: with chorizo sausage mixed in the hamburger and fries on the burger) and I ordered a pulled pork and coleslaw sandwich.  On the side, we enjoyed crispy plantains and churros. And, of course, a coconut cream Batidos to drink (a milky frozen treat).

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After lunch, we went to Paul’s mom’s house to relax. We spent the evening with our nephew, Tyler, and went to bed early in anticipation of an early wake-up the next morning. Before bed, having learned our lesson, we repackaged our clothing into a carry-on sized bag.  🙂

Day 1

We left for the Detroit airport at 3:30am, armed with only carry-on bags. We got through security in record time and were pleased to have plenty of time to kill at the gate before boarding.

We had a short layover in Denver and then landed in Ontario, California at noon. An airport shuttle took us to the rental car area, where we picked up our reserved rental car: a 2016 Ford Fiesta hatchback in red.

The drive from Ontario to Palm Springs was just over an hour. During the drive, we admired the sun, warm temperature, palm trees, and windmills.

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Palm Springs (and specifically, Rancho Mirage) is located in the Coachella Valley. Being neatly surrounded by mountains means that the weather is very consistent — it is rare to get a rain shower and the skies seem always to be blue. Palm Springs does experience seasons — although it is during the scorching summers when locals avoid being outside and driving in the heat.

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Paul’s grandma owns a lovely condo within the Rancho Las Palmas Country Club in Rancho Mirage.

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We were hungry for lunch, so we went out to the restaurant at the Desert Willow Country Club — Grandma’s favorite place.

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Paul ordered a gourmet hamburger while grandma and I enjoyed their outstanding Monte Cristo. It was the best Monte Cristo I’ve ever had!

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We enjoyed the lovely view overlooking the golf course as we ate.

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Back at grandma’s condo, we enjoyed the sunshine from the back patio and watched the golfers tee off.

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After a quick nap, Grandma made a dinner of chili and salad, with brownie and gelato for dessert.

For the rest of the evening, we relaxed on the patio, walked around at the outdoor shopping area across the street, sat in the hot tub, and chatted in the living room. This is what vacation is made of — relaxation!

Click here for Day 2.

Las Vegas Trip (3): F March 28, 2015

We slept in the next morning and then rented a car. First, we drove towards the south end of The Strip, where the famous “fabulous Las Vegas” sign is. I love how this selfie photo turned out!

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Then we drove to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, about a half-hour away.

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We hiked all afternoon in the wonderful sun. The rock was beautiful.

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We enjoyed the flora and the fauna, too. We saw lots of pear cactus, a rattlesnake, a little gecko, and little wildflowers.

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We weren’t successful in avoiding sunburn, but it was totally worth it!

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For dinner, we decided to visit a buffet. Vegas once had a reputation for having very inexpensive buffet restaurants. This is no longer true. Our buffet dinner was not cheap, nor were most of our meals!

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Here is a view of another of the huge themed hotels on the Strip, this one with a New York City theme.

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Our flight home the next morning was supposed to leave at 8:30am. Our flight was mysteriously delayed until 2pm, however; so we ended up spending the entire day at the airport or in the plane. We landed in Detroit around 9pm. On the upside, I finished reading an excellent book on piano teaching, and Paul and I spent time dreaming about how we are going to use the travel vouchers that Southwest gave us.  🙂

It was a fun trip! Three days was the perfect amount of time to see the city and do some tourist-y things. Next year’s MTNA conference is in San Antonio — and I’m already looking forward to that!

Las Vegas Trip (2): Th March 27, 2015

In the morning, Paul’s internal coffee meter was running low as usual. We went to a great little coffee place attached to the Monte Carlo hotel.

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I enjoyed a huge blueberry scone.

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We walked back to the hotel to get a few hours of sunshine and reading by the pool. It was lovely. 🙂

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When we had enough of the pool, we walked around for a few hours again. The Bellagio is another huge, fancy hotel, this one with an Italian theme. Out front, there is a pool with a fountain show synced with music that plays every half-hour in the evenings.

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The lobby features blown glass art on the ceiling.

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The Bellagio also has a indoor conservatory.

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Here is a panoramic view:

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The Bellagio hotel has an art exhibition which was currently hosting a Fabergé exhibit. Paul has always wanted to see this, so we went. The detail work on the Fabergé eggs, frames, and other art is amazing.

For dinner, we ate at a Spanish tapas restaurant called Jaleo. The food was absolutely incredible! We were floored by every dish we ordered.

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After dark, we went back to the Ballagio Hotel to see the fountain show at nighttime.

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Outside of the Mirage hotel, they have a “volcano” that spews fire and water every half hour.

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Then it was time to catch the “Beatles Love” Cirque du Soleil show. One of my adult students was generous enough to buy us tickets for Christmas when he heard we were going on this trip. Photos were not allowed during the performance, but here’s a selfie photo before the show! The athleticism and grace of the performers was incredible, and the costumes/acts were very fitting to the Beatles songs we heard.

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It was a full day!