Are You Open to Surprises?

Life’s beauty can arrive by surprise. 🌸⁣

We can plan and try to predict things all we want (quick shout out to the Type As and planners out there), but things happen all the time that are completely out of our control. Sometimes these things are what we’d call good. Sometimes they’re not. At least not in the moment. But it’s good to be open to surprises in any case, I think.

For instance, I wasn’t expecting to wander upon these magnolia trees this spring. Cherry blossoms get lots of love here in DC—and the thousands of trees donated by Japan decades ago do deserve their own attention. (Trust me, I wrote about those beauties, too.) But these magnolia blooms in the Smithsonian Castle’s garden were gorgeous. I live here, and I had no idea how amazing this would be. I was just planning a quick pass-through, but ended up marveling at these for several long moments.

Need more encouragement? One older study from Emory University Health Sciences Center found that the brain finds unexpected pleasures more rewarding than expected ones. You’ll understand this yourself if you’ve ever gotten a surprise flower delivery (yes, I’m still talking about plants!) or if you’ve ever won an unexpected prize or other reward.

So, here’s to not planning everything. And to being open to the unexpected. You never know what you might find.

See more about this garden visit on Instagram–or follow me there @lesliequander so we can keep up!

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Positive Thinking: Our Words and Beliefs Matter

As I was walking in our nation’s capital this spring, taking in the beautiful cherry blossoms, I had some realizations. We’re surrounded by beauty—for me, I can see it every day—but we don’t always take time to notice. And we don’t always focus on the good things in our lives.

The annual National Cherry Blossom Festival commemorates the the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Tokyo to the city of Washington, DC, according to the festival’s website. And the views and programming over the event’s four weeks attract more than a million people each year.

This season, I looked out on the pretty scenes before me (including the Jefferson Memorial through the trees), and thought to myself. I settled on this (among other things): Our words and beliefs matter. It’s a message that I’ve been hearing lately from other sources, too. It relates to the law of attraction. And that saying: Whether you think you can or you can’t—either way you’re right. ⁣

So I’m making a special effort to think that I can. To say that I can. To KNOW that I can be at peace—even when things are crazy. (For instance, so many people were swarming around me when I took this photo. But I decided I would focus on the view and stay in peace—and I did!) 🌸 ⁣

Do you think positive thinking really works? I’ve seen it work in my life. Feel free to comment or check out my Instagram post to see what people told me. ✨


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3 Festive DC Destinations to Visit Year-Round




This month, I thought about booking a flight out of town. The travel bug almost bit me again. But then I thought about the fact that I live in the nation’s capital. And there are tons of things to do here—many of them free—and I can keep myself busy at home. Every. Single. Day. And save my money for another big trip abroad. (More on that later.)

The good thing about the destinations I visited this December? They’re also good bets year-round. Though, as you’d probably guess, the events and décor will vary.

CityCenterDC
For instance, in mid-December I dropped by an ice sculpture exhibit at CityCenterDC. This complex of 10 acres in downtown DC includes a plaza, luxe shopping, restaurants, pedestrian walkways, and a hotel, along with living spaces for those who want to make a home there.

Channeling Cruella de Vil at CityCenterDC’s visiting ice exhibit. (The coat, however, is faux!)

We had to wait in line to get into the event tent, but the reward was seeing sculptures that rose up to 12 feet tall and that were carved from 50,000 pounds of ice. The exhibit has since departed, but it’s an example of the cool events that sweep into this space. (Literally and figuratively cool, in this case.) Not seeking any event in particular? The shopping and dining options are worth a stop, too.

A pedestrian walkway by CityCenterDC shops. The archway look changes during the year.

The Warner Theatre
I also bought a ticket to The Nutcracker ballet at DC’s Warner Theatre, which first opened in 1924. The theater design is lovely and intricate, and the location is metro accessible. So convenient. If you want to visit at other times of year, check out the events calendar, which includes everything from comedy to concerts.

Look at this ceiling at the Warner Theatre. Gorgeous.

The stage before The Nutcracker started. No photos were allowed during the show, but I can tell you the scenes were whimsical.

The Willard InterContinental Hotel
As Christmas approached, I decided that I wanted to have a grand décor experience. So I ventured over to The Willard InterContinental hotel, which is just blocks from The White House and also accessible via metro. Since 1818, this hotel has welcomed U.S. presidents, foreign dignitaries, and celebrities. But my focus was on the decorations—including the super tall, decked out tree in the lobby.

At The Willard, pretending like this tree belongs to me. 😉

This year’s décor also included a gingerbread display that weighed almost 400 pounds and contained more than 100 LED lights, 306 pieces of gingerbread, and 30 pounds of fondant for the runway. The hotel’s pastry team is serious. 

Construction on this gingerbread display honoring Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) began in November 2018. It took more than 350 hours to complete.

Planning a stop outside of the holidays? You can go to Café du Parc, the hotel’s restaurant, and dine on traditional French food (including pastries by those hardworking chefs) at any time of year. Or have tea or a cocktail on the lobby level.

On the way to Café du Parc.

The Take-Away, Plus More on Instagram
These are truly entertaining times in DC. I haven’t even mentioned the museums I’ve visited and all of my dining and social activities. (I heard live music, too, and I definitely followed my own tips for hearing protection.)

Want to see more of my adventures, including scenes from my last big trip to Taiwan, Japan, and Hawaii? Come follow me on Instagram: I’m @lesliequander.

And, no matter where you are, I hope you’ve enjoyed the holiday season and that you can look ahead to happy moments in the new year.


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