Thursday, August 29, 2013

Staycation 2013

Since moving from our little hometown in Illinois over six years ago, we have ventured back to visit family and friends every year....usually at least twice a year.  This year though, we decided to stay put!  Several reasons....1.  Money 2.  Money 3. Money  And so, with those reasons in mind, we planned a Staycation for our family vacation this year.  Living in the Northeast made the planning for this week pretty simple and yet overwhelming at the same time.  There are SO many things to do up here and we are close to it all.  We had no problem filling up the week with sites and activities that we had not yet experienced.  We have a bucket list of items that didn't make the cut this time but that's what lists are for, right?  Before we made definite plans for the week, we asked our three children what they would like to do.....our little guy said New York City and specifically the M&M store, our middle child wanted to go whale watching or something boat related, our oldest wanted to go to a water slide or The Cape.  We made a few modifications to a couple of the suggestions and thankfully everyone was agreeable.

Our Monday venture was NYC.  We said we'd aim for 7:00 a.m. to leave our house, knowing that it would be 7:30.  It was more like 8:30 by the time we got ourselves out the door.  But, that's the joy of a "firm" schedules.  After a couple of pit stops and a quick run into Target, we got to our parking deck by Central Park around 11:30.  We had a coupon for this place, it was perfect....right across from the Time Warner building and we got to see several really, really nice cars there - one was a  Lamborghini (which "L" called a Zucchini).  It was lunch time so I asked Suri if she had any suggestions.  She directed us to Merilu, the highest ranking pizza joint around our location.  We ranked it high too, delish!

Here's our foodie eating her mushroom slices.

After getting fueled up, we headed to Times Square for our visit to the M&M store.  We only spent $25 there this time....with the purchase of our annual Christmas ornament from a vacation spot and a little over a pound of M&M's.  

While at Times Square we saw a scene from the TV show Cold Case being taped and we also saw Robert John Burck, otherwise known as the "Naked Cowboy".  Thankfully our kids were too focused on all of the police around, both real and actors, that they didn't ask why there was a man in only his whitie-tighties, cowboy hat, boots and a guitar on the street corner.

We then hopped on the subway, which made for a very happy four year old, and headed to Battery Park.  We stopped on some park benches to relax, sip some Starbucks, observe the Statue of Liberty from afar and figure out our next stop.  It was here that we also got to see Evan Strong in action.  He is the 2012 Para Snowboard Cross World Champion and 2014 Paralympic Snowboarding hopeful.  Check out his story, very inspirational!

Our next stop was Chelsea Market.  We shopped around a bit, taste tested a few specialty foods, had dinner and grabbed dessert to go.  "F" had a giant stuffed ravioli for her dinner.

We headed back to Central Park to let the kids eat their desserts and to play for a bit before the drive home.  Always a fun and exhausting time in New York City!  Staycation Day 1.....check.

Tuesday was kind of a dreary, rainy, coolish sort of day.  We had walked about 75 miles the day before and got home really late, no, more like really early on Tuesday morning from our city visit.  So, we slept in, had a lazy morning, ate a late breakfast and Jeremy worked a bit.  We decided to head to Providence, RI for the afternoon.  We did a little shopping at the Providence Place Mall and then went to our 5:00 pm reservations at The Melting Pot.  We have a family tradition of fondue on Christmas Eve but we've never taken the kids to a fondue restaurant.  It was a huge hit with everyone, especially dessert!!  Staycation Day 2.....check.

Wednesday was gorgeous! We filled our Camelbaks, packed lunch and put on our hiking shoes.  We headed to Mt. Monadnock in New Hampshire.  The hike took four hours round trip and was a little under four miles to the Summit and back down.  It was challenging and beautiful all at the same time.  Even though the trek down was full of complaints, we were proud of the kids.  "L" did the entire thing with his own two legs, impressive indeed!  Staycation Day 3.....check.

Thursday was another perfect August day and we had another groupon to use.  It was for kayak rentals at Hopkinton State Park.  I didn't get great pictures because we didn't want to chance the boats tipping over and our camera sinking to the bottom of the lake.  I'm happy to report that no boats were tipped and it was such a blast!  And even though we didn't see any whales, "S" was still satisfied with this outing as a slight modification to her ferry boat idea.  She loved helping paddle.  "L" was a great paper weight of sorts in the middle of the row boat.  "F" didn't need an ounce of help, could have kayaked the whole lake alone if we'd let her.  Staycation Day 4.....check.

Friday was another travel day.  Just a side note first....we decided to NOT turn on the DVD player but instead had the kids listen to Adventures in Odyssey on-line instead.  It was awesome!  If you have kids, give it a try sometime.  They have to use their imagination as they listen to the stories and they learn some good lessons along the way.  Anyway - back to the trip....We headed south, back to Rhode Island.  This time we went Newport.  It is our new favorite place in New England.  Such a quaint, clean, beautiful, fun town!  Because we had become the "Physical Fitness Family for the Week" - we decided to continue our exercise-cation by walking all over creation yet again.  We started on one side of Newport, then walked to the Elms and did a mansion tour there.  We then walked a little further and did a second mansion tour of the Breakers.  These tours were fantastic.  Not only are the houses gorgeous, but that era of history is fascinating.  If you are a fan of Downton Abbey, these homes bring that show to life....the wealth, the lifestyle, the servants.  We walked around with headsets on, listening to the details of the rooms.  The kids enjoyed it all too.  Next, we walked the Cliff Walk for a bit, which is located in the back of many of the mansions and overlooks the ocean.  We walked back to the harbor and had dinner at the Landings.  After that, we walked to Ben and Jerry's for ice cream and then walked around the harbor checking out yachts (the 21st Century picture of extreme wealth!)  We walked through some cute little shops and finally walked back to our car.  Staycation Day 5.....check.

Saturday was our "catch up" day of mowing the lawn, doing some laundry, cleaning the house, etc.  We then headed to Patriot's Place later in the afternoon.  We did a little shopping, ate dinner outdoors at Tavolino Pizza Gourmet and then headed into Gillette Stadium for an MLS game between the New England Revolution and Chicago Fire.  It was the perfect night for a game and the Revs won 2-0!  Staycation Day 5.....check.

Back to reality now, but what a fun way to spend a week of vacation time!  We created some wonderful memories with our kiddos, had some really great laughs throughout the week, got to experience God's creativity and beauty all around us and burned lots of calories along the way!  It was a win-win-win-win kind of week!  

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Feb. 2013 Blizzard

WOW!  So, it's been a LONG time since I've posted to the blog!  I thought that surviving our 1st blizzard was blog worthy and interesting to all of you that have been tracking our weather.  The state did a great job in prepping everyone for the upcoming storm and most, if not all, schools in line of the storm were cancelled for Friday.  So, we woke up to nothing but it started snowing around 11:00 a.m. and jumped to full force for the next 24 hours.  The wind kicked up Friday night and gusted up to 65 mph at times with the snow still falling in buckets!  We woke up this morning to a beautiful winter wonderland! It was still crazy windy and still snowing tons until about 11:00 a.m. this morning and then it quit.  The wind stuck around for the rest of the morning but the snow tapered off and we spent the morning playing while Jeremy spent the morning digging us out!  Here are a few photos, enjoy!

This was taken at around 8:30 on Friday night.  The dip is a path that Jeremy had shoveled at around 7:30 to get more wood.  Within the hour it had nearly filled back in.

This was our view this morning when we opened the drapes!

Jeremy took the kids out to play this morning and this is the scene when they opened the garage door.

Fiona and the neighbors made two igloos and then connected them with a tunnel.  Here are my 3 hanging out in the new snow fort!

Our mailbox and driveway.....before Jeremy dug us out.

Poor Linc. could hardly walk....none of us could really!  It came up to my thighs in the front yard.  Thankfully he's light and was able to stay mostly on top.  Here he's blazing his own trail back to the driveway.  He crawled most of it.

Our street this morning.  So peaceful!

She thought it was so cool getting to hang out in the middle of the road!  We played chase, tag, ran and slid and I threw the kids into the snow piles.  It was too deep to sled.

 He's missing his legs here! 

It took him almost 3 hours to dig us out!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Showcase #10 - Portland, Maine

Labor Day weekend was coming up and Jeremy found out he had two free nights of hotel stays to use before the end of September.  We originally planned on going into NYC for the weekend, since the kids have been asking to go back.  But, we decided to do a little exploring in the North East instead.  Jeremy has been into Maine for business but the rest of the family had not, so we decided to head north 2 1/2 hours and check out Portland, Maine.

Traffic was Cuh-RAZY on Friday night as apparently EVERYONE in Mass. had the same idea as us! So, it took us an hour longer to get to Portland and with the sun setting earlier, it was dusk by the time we made it to Cape Elizabeth and the Lobster Shack.  Cape Elizabeth has the most famously photographed lighthouse in the world - the Portland Head Light Lighthouse.  Here you can see it in the picture behind the family.

Obviously, Maine is known for it's lobster.  So, we HAD to have it for dinner.  We ate here at the Lobster Shack and ordered 2 lobster dinners, 1 lobster roll, 1 bowl of clam chowder (or clam chowdah as they say up here) and 1 cheeseburger - - - for the less adventurous.

Here are the kids checking out the area before heading to our hotel in Brunswick, ME.

On Saturday, we headed to downtown Portland and had breakfast at a little cafe called Morning in Paris.  It was good, but the kids all agreed that they'd much rather had Grandma Z's cinnamon rolls!!  We then headed to the Casco Bay Ferry.  After several recommendations from locals, we decided to visit Peak's Island in Casco Bay for the day.  Lincoln LOVED the ferry ride!

Here we are waiting for the ferry to arrive.        

Family photo on the windy ride over to the island.

Just enjoying the 20 minute ride.......and the view.

And here is the dock.

The island is only about 6 miles around the perimeter, so we rented bikes for four hours and toured the island while taking lots of breaks to play in the water or climb the rocky coast.  

Jeremy dared her to walk over to that little rock island but it got too deep without a swimsuit on and the boats going by were making too big of waves...So she made it half way and then had to come back.

A little different "beach" scene than what we're used to seeing - - - so beautiful though!!

A little tidal pool to get our feet wet and to find kelp snails (we think), shown by Lincoln.

We ate lunch at Peak's Island House, which overlooked the bay.  

We returned the bikes, rode the ferry back across the bay and then headed to Freeport, ME to visit the headquarters for L.L. Bean.  If you need anything outdoorsy - this is the place for you!  It was huge!!

Welcome to L.L. Bean!

Here are the kids popping their heads up into a huge fish tank.

And here's one of several moose we saw in the store.

We then headed to our hotel to shower and get ready for dinner.  We decided to eat at a place called Sea Dog Brewing Co. in Topsham, ME for dinner.  

The restaurant was in the neatest setting - the deck overlooked a beautiful rocky river.  See Fiona's face - it is one of concern.  While the scenery was gorgeous ..... we were unable to enjoy it due to spiders.  Seriously, as I type this, my stomach has knots in it from remembering the FEAR we lived in as we tried dining here!  I'll save you the nasty details...just know that we moved tables three times - twice out on the deck and then into the restaurant.....Scarlett was in tears at one point.....our waitress killed one swinging in midair......and well, let's just say that we all had the hee-bee jee-bee's that night!  Bllahhhh!!

Moving on.....Sunday was a rainy and cool day.  We ate breakfast at a little diner and then headed back into Portland to do a firetruck tour of the city.  Again, Lincoln was SOO excited for this!  We were thankful that the firetruck had a little roof so we were able to weather the rain and get to see and hear the history of the port city.....very interesting!

A pink fire hat for Scarlett, how perfect was that???!!!

The rain came and went so we decided to just walk around the city and visit some of the local shops.  We found a little toy store so each of the kids picked up a souvenir of sorts - - Lincoln got a Blue Angels Airplane, Scarlett got a bracelet and Fiona got a puzzle of the Head Light Lighthouse.  We ate lunch at a pizza place on the bay called Flatbread Co.  It was delicious!  Here the kids were watching our pizza cook in the brick oven.

We made one final stop before heading out of town....Mt. Desert Island for their famous homemade ice cream.  Fiona had blackberry - Scarlett had vanilla - Lincoln had cookies and cream.

We came home Sunday night.  Monday was Labor Day so Jeremy made pancakes and Fiona did a little church service for us.  She read the story of Jonah and then had coloring sheets for us.  We then sang a couple of praise songs and closed out our service in prayer.  Oh how precious this time was!