Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Snow and Beantown

Mother Nature or Jack Frost or whoever saved all our snow for January.  I've been unable to blog because we've had so many snow days!  Last week, Monday was a holiday (MLK). Tuesday was a snow day (perhaps we should have called it an ice day). Wednesday, school started 2 hours late.  Thursday, there was school, but Friday was another snow day (this one for just a bit of snow?).  So Willa only had school 2 days, and one was not a full day.  It's fun having her around, but it throws off my routine.

The week before we had a snow day and a late start as well, but that was for a "real" blizzard.  We got about 16 inches of snow in 24 hours.

Our empty lot.  It's fun to see who leaves their tracks in the snow.

The day after, on our deck.  You can see my Adirondack chair arm next to Willa.

 SO, that is my excuse for not blogging; it was nice to have Willa home, but it's nice to get back to the norm too (although Johan, the boy from next door, is sure there is going to be a snow day this week too.  I think that may just be wishful thinking on his part).

I want to jump back in time to tell you about our mini-vacation. This was Nick's brainchild. He had to give a paper at a conference on the first weekend in January in Boston.  He'd heard of short term rental apartments in the North End and devised a plan to have the whole family come for the weekend. 

For those of you who don't know, the North End is THE Italian neighborhood in Boston and one of the oldest in the city as well.  This was my first time visiting that part of town and I don't think it's ever going to look as wonderful as it did the night we arrived.  The streets are very narrow and crooked (think Diagon Alley).  It was snowing and dark, but lit by antique street lamps and lights from the profusion of Italian restaurants lining the streets.  The smells were amazing too.  In the few blocks we walked from the T stop to the apartment we were staying in, I was charmed. 

 The North End is a great location because it has a lot of attractions nearby, including the New England Aquarium.  Last year I bought a membership to the Aquarium, mostly because I didn't want to stand in line outside with the kids in the rain, but also because it is a good deal if you visit more than once a year.  So on Saturday, we headed to the Aquarium (but not before Mom got an amazing latte at an Italian coffee shop.)

Walking to the Aquarium

The Harbor seals were relaxing in the cold. Their exhibit is outside. (Brrr.)

We saw lots of penguins...

...and fish.

Touch tanks are Willa's favorite.

Cal is more cautious.

This guy is one of several in the cylindrical giant ocean tank (3 stories) that you spiral around as you walk through the exhibits.

Cal in the kids activity area. He was naming each thing he turned over. He even tried to say "anemone".

Willa in kids area identifying fish in giant ocean tank. Then the turtle came up and sat next to her.

Here's a close up.
Anaconda feeding time.
 We had an awesome time.  One of my favorite moments was watching the anacondas get fed.  According to the aquarium's website these snakes can be 30 feet long and 550 pounds.  They give the snakes dead rats using a long grabber.  They wiggle the rat until the snake snatches it and pulls it under the water where it coils up around it and swallows it.  It was fascinating and disgusting.

After the aquarium, we were hungry.  It's always hard to find food that we all will like and I was kind of wondering where we should go to eat.  Then I realized we were right by Quincy Market, which is like a big food court for the Faneuil Hall Marketplace.  Faneuil Hall was built in 1742 as a marketplace and Quincy Market was added in 1826 as part of an expansion.  Now the area is a thriving, fun upscale shopping area and major destination for visitors to Boston.  I was thrilled to get us all food we wanted (Willa got a bagel with cream cheese, Cal got pizza, and I got chowder).  The place was quite busy and so we went up to the balcony to f ind seating, but there was no seating there due to renovations.  Everyone was sitting on the floor eating picnic style.  So we joined them.

On our way home.
The kids loved it.  It gave us the energy for the walk home where we waited for Dad, then back out to eat more at one of the many Italian restaurants in the area.  Yum!

Sunday we were happy to have Nick with us.  We had to have pastries (which the area is known for) so Nick took us to Modern Pastry.  It isn't as famous as Mike's Pastry, but more kid friendly and with more breakfast options (as opposed to dessert, although I've got to try some of Mike's stuff next time).


Sunday morning sugary breakfast.  Look at that amazing cup of coffee.  Happy sigh.

Cal touches Paul Revere's house. 

After a quick side trip past Paul Revere's house, we were off to the Museum of Science, Boston.  I've been there several times, but you never get to see everything and they had some new exhibits since the last time I'd been there.  This was the kids first time. Here are some highlights:
Super cute hedgehog from animal show.

Screech owl from same show.

In the Butterfly Garden.  It was 90 degrees in there and full of fluttering friends.

This one really liked Nick.  It wouldn't get off his finger.

That's the frozen Charles River outside the window.

This is Cliff.  He's from North Dakota too.
We could have spend several more hours in the museum, but it was closing.  
We had a really fun weekend.  I want to do it again, in the spring. We missed you, though.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Christmas in Nashville

Again, I've taken an unintended hiatus.  Life just keeps intervening!  Well, the first part of my hiatus was intended and what I'll write about today.

We spent Christmas in Nashville with our adopted family, the Clinton-Selins.  Everyone should have an adopted family.  The extra love and support you get is amazing.  We were all happy to see Greta, Tatum (G's sister), Barbara (G's mom) and Uncle Jim (G's dad).  (Uncle Jim is called uncle because Willa first got to know him when he was traveling with Tatum and their cousin Cara, who calls Jim Uncle.)  We also got to meet G's Grandpa Larry (Barb's dad).

It would have been exceedingly crowded at the Clinton-Selin homestead, but we were lucky enough to stay at a neighbor's house who were away on vacation (in Key West with their Airstream. Jealous!).  It was a lovely house with a great kitchen, gas fireplace and lots of top shelf alcohol (it was too expensive to drink).  We were extremely comfortable, fed well, and generally spoiled. 

Sorry to say, we forgot our camera!  What I have are pictures that Tatum and I took with her camera on Christmas day.  We had no snow in Massachusetts when we left, but were "blessed" with it in Nashville.  It started snowing the evening before Christmas.  We got to catch it on our tounges as we walked from the C-S's to "our" house.  When we woke up, the yard was white!  Greta found out the chance of snow on Christmas in Nashville on any given year was 5% (from Weather.com; looks like Minot has a 75% chance and Westfield has a 60-75% chance).  I guess we picked the right year to find snow in the South.
Here's the walk from the Crimmins' (where we were staying) to the C-S's.

Christmas was a happy day.  I think we (meaning the kids) sped up the gift unwrapping quite a bit compared to what the C-S's usually did, but we had fun. 

Willa with Barbara

Nick opens his "Nick at Nite" bathrobe.  That's Tatum in blue scarf and Greta in black shirt.

Other people unwrapping is almost as good as unwrapping your own gifts.

Cal gets a soccer shirt.  His pants got wet in the snow, so they were in the dryer.

Cal the Cowboy

Greta and Cal open something?

Willa wore her cape and necklaces all day!

While we were in Nashville we went out with a high school friend of mine, JuLee Brand (can't believe it has been 20 years since I'd seen her) and friends in Clarksville.  There were many other people we should have seen, but I got social fatigue, so we spent a day at the science center and a day resting before heading home. 

My hairstylist asked if spending Christmas in a different place was strange, and thinking about it, I realized that the only non-strange Christmas would be one spent at my Mom's house.  That's Christmas to me, even though it has been a while since we all got together there for the holiday.   My kids have spent Christmas in 4 different places.  Maybe now that we own this house, we can start some traditions of our own.

I'm going to try to catch up the blog in the next week, so, never fear - there will be more soon.

We had a great time in Nashville, but missed you, though.