The Golden Circlet

All the good things in life

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Hotel De Glace

We’d been meaning to go for a long while, and in honor of the boy’s 10th birthday, we finally went: The Ice Hotel, in Quebec City:

Sleeping in an ice castle is every bit the magical once-in-a-lifetime experience you might hope on the one hand, and a total miracle of marketing, on the other. If they called it “ice camping,” after all, which is what it is, they probably couldn’t charge north of $500 a night for it.  That bit of bitterness aside, however, you’re still an ice princess in your ice castle, right? Right.

And what did your humble family of ice royalty do in their nordic castle? We carved ice sculptures, we drank fancy cocktails from glasses made of ice, we sat on fur pelts in front of roaring fires, we danced under an ice disco ball.

We spent an absurdly long time sliding down the ice slide, and far less time than we should have soaking in the hot tubs and steaming in the sauna before returning to what must have been one of the coldest nights of the Quebec winter thus far. (We indeed tested the limits of the -30 degree sleeping bags. We slept much less than we should have, too.) We wandered down mysterious ice queen hallways ….

 and into rooms carved into the shapes of forests, polar bear playgrounds, and avalanche caves. We took an absurdly large number of photos for our families and our blogs. When we finally got cold, we went out to dinner, where I had what must be the very best and most fun sushi I think I have ever had. We slept well, when we finally did sleep:

And in the morning we practiced our French wandering around old Quebec, buying junk and noshing. An adventure, for sure!




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Tu Bishvat Seder

Last weekend was the Jewish holiday of Tu Bishvat, the “New Year of the Trees” — a Jewish Earth Day, or Arbor Day. It’s not a major holiday, but has some lovely ritual associated with it, especially the seder, which was created by Isaac Luria in 17th century Israel as a mystical, kabbalistic way to celebrate the Tree of Life.

Just for fun — and because we were missing the Tu Bishvat seder his Hebrew school hosts — we had a seder at home, loosely following this outline. Most Tu Bishvat seders eat no fruit with the fourth cup of wine, as this is meant to evoke the realm of God, but I like the idea alluded to in the outline I linked to of choosing as a fourth fruit a “fruit of the Gods.” Chocolate, for example. We also tried to include the seven species, as well as a fruit none of us had eaten recently (papaya), so we could sing the shehechyianu.

Here was our menu:

  • First Cup: Pina Coladas in Coconut Shells
  • First Fruit: Mixed Nuts
  • Second Cup: Pina Colada mixed with a bit of Sparkling Grape Juice
  • Second Fruit: Olives
  • Third Cup: Sparkling Grape Juice mixed with a bit of Pina Colada
  • Third Fruits: Dried Figs, Red Grapes, Strawberries

  • Dinner: My Grandmother’s Special “Orange Mud” Soup (which contains barley, one of the seven species), Bread Drizzled with Honey

  • Fourth Cup: Sparkling Grape Juice
  • Fourth Fruits: Guacamole with Chips
  • Papaya, Kiwi, Pomegranate, Mango, Chocolate

It was really a lovely seder. We’ll definitely do it again next year.

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I love to dance. Dancing is more fun with a crowd, so I’m always trying to convince people to go dancing with me. It’s always kind of a task. Dancing, like singing — this basic, primal, human thing that people have done in all societies since the beginning of time — somehow got turned into this thing that you had to be a certain kind of person to be allowed to do: Young, probably female, definitely beautiful-looking, and with that particular nonchalant, sullen superiority that passes for hip in this broken country. I’m only one out of the four, and most of my friends are also acutely aware of where they fall short on the checklist. It’s a hard sell.

But I’m a great believer in what Morrie Schwartz called “create your own culture,” and I *do* love to dance, so I keep on selling. It’s gotten extra difficult since I moved to the middle of nowhere. Even if I can get willing partners, sometimes there’s nowhere to go. I’ll dance to anything with a beat, honestly, but part of getting people comfortable with dancing is going somewhere they feel comfortable, and the choices  are limited.

Yet, really, what’s not to love? A crowd of people all moving together, arms waving, feet stomping, colored lights flashing, music shaking your veins — if you don’t think about it too hard, you can rise right up off the floor and float until morning.

So I was excited when a friend invited me to a dance party at a quirky local museum. It was in honor of her friend’s birthday, and dancing was the main attraction in a night that also featured meditation, a powerpoint history of social justice, and a potluck. That’s how we do our revolutions in Northern New England in January. We brought the kids and danced to amazing West African music courtesy of Landaya. It was fun to watch the kids — at 10, the boy is on the cusp between heartless adolescent embarrassability and a child’s readiness to get down and boogie. Initially he was all frowns, but he told me later he simply wanted to see “what I was supposed to do.” When he concluded that “dancing is just like airbending” (and somehow telepathically communicated this to his friend), the two of them airbended their way up to the front and center and took it on down to the floor. Talk about rising right off of the ground.

I didn’t airbend — that I know of, anyway — but I did enjoy the music, lights, and being out with friends and family on a Friday night. And I can recommend it: So would you. Create your own culture. Go dancing. And invite me, next time you go.