Friday, December 31, 2010

Blizzard 2010; Weston Ski Track, Weston, MA

 My wife is from Miami.  Yes, this is a picture of my wife and I in snow pants.  It was a long ten years from our first x-country ski trip till now.  Last time she was trying to convince me that you can take the girl out of Miami so I would marry her.  This time she credits the snow pants.  I credit the 45 degree temps and crystal clear blue skies.  Sydney was just happy to have somebody else to fall with.

I grew up loving Weston Ski Track.  It was a ten minute car ride and always had snow.  I started out on x-country at the same age Sydney did, somewhere around 2-3.  Liji would not be lured into such madness, but he sure loved the pulk .  He fell asleep somewhere around minute ten.   Weston makes snow, which keeps them in business from December 15th till March 15th, a pretty good deal for those golfers at Leo J. Martin (it doubles as a course in the off-season... you notice I say "doubles" 'cause which is the real sport here?).

By the third hill, both mommy and Sydney alike stayed upright the entire ride down.  Mommy doing her best imitation of Liji's potty-training, grinning from ear to ear.  Sydney, serious in his tuck down the hill.   We are off to Smuggler's Notch (this is a shameless plug as they may comp us a third night if we post about them) in a few weeks for my Hanukah present.  Dare I dream that I've taken the Miami right out of that girl once and for all?

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Transcendental Christmas; Concord Museum, Concord, MA

Ok, so we don't celebrate Christmas.  But I always was a sucker for those trees.  What better way to spend the holidays than the Concord Museum's 15th Annual "Family Trees; a Celebration of Children's Literature." (Open December 3rd to January 2nd).  Now, this is a top-notch local museum to begin with.  There is a great collection of Americana from this center of the Revolution, even if it isn't as fancy as the new MFA wing.  Of course they celebrate neighbor Ralph Waldo Emerson (who resided across the street) and that little battle that happened just down the road.

But, on the day before Christmas, you come for the trees.  There were majestic pines filled with hand-stiched animals from one of our fav authors Clare Beaton's, "One Moose, Twenty Mice."  There were even pails hung from the outdoor tree of the fabulous "Ox Cart Man" by Donald Hall.  We got to make our own wish for the tree for "Wish: Wishing Traditions around the World," by Roseanne Thong, illustrated by Elisa Kleven.  But mainly we read on the comfy couches, soaking in such new wonders as "Kermit the Hermit," by Bill Peet.

According to the museum, "each tree serves as a canvas for the artistic creations of a dedicated team of volunteer decorators. Inspired by the storyline, the illustrations, the characters or setting of a particular book."  So while many of you are out there jostling your way through Toys R Us or fighting for that last ham at Whole Foods, you might want to take a minute and enjoy the simple glow of the holidays in the quaintest little town on earth.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

All Star and All-American; The American Wing at the MFA, Boston, MA

We are museum snobs.  There, I've said it.  I think we deserve it though.  After years educating kids at the NYC Museum School  and plenty more traveling the globe I think I get an opinion or two.  I grew up on the MFA.  It set the bar for my own art education as a kid.  You may find it hard to believe that I followed the opening of this wing in the Globe more closely that the recent trades for Gonzalez and Crawford to the Sox lineup. 

The MFA was already a world-class institution, if not a bit stuffy.  This Art of the Americas wing upgrade was like scoring Crawford, Gonzalez, Jeter and Rivera.  We camped out in the colonies for half our visit.  Sydney was so enamored with the artist demonstration on colonial chair making, I thought we may never get him out of there. Liji was busy comparing Copley portraits with mommy.   Sydney and I were smitten with GW crossing the Delaware.

Alright, so maybe mommy and I are not much for 19th century America.  But what a lovely surprise to be greeted with TWO Calders on floor three, our fav.  The tech wasn't too bad either; both boys loved restyling some famous works on the touch table computers.  But the real thrill was the views through the three story walls of glass.  Sydney just hung out looking over the diners and the junction of the old and new.  A treat for almost everyone of the senses.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Shark's Tale: Fishin on Biscayne Bay; Miami, FL

As a kid, I spent every other Thanksgiving with my pops his parents in Miami.  Grandpa had a 27-foot Vega that we would take out into Biscayne Bay and if the wind was good we would hit Stiltsville by lunch and turn back for dinner.  Every once and a while I would get a chance to jump over, cool off in the waves and grab the tiller for the ride back.

These days the boat is sold, Grandpa isn’t getting out on the Bay with Shake-a-Leg as much as he used to, but we’ve gotten Uncle David to get the ole fishing boat out of mothballs.  Sydney caught the fishing bug this summer in Tolland, but the ocean is a whole ‘nother deal.  He and David cast in and two minutes later pulled in a twelve inch black grouper (small by their standards, not Sydney’s).  I pulled up a ten inch porgy, so David filleted it and threw it on his heavy tess line.  Five minutes later that rod bent in half and David shouted “reel her in Sydney.”

Now David is 6’3”, 250 in his skinny jeans and he was straining.  That’s when we noticed the yellow tipped fins off the shoals.  He handed me the rod and that baby started running.  Barracuda?  Scuba diver? The bottom? One flip later and David knew we had a lemon shark and it wasn’t gonna be small.  Thirty minutes of reelin’ while Sydney shuffled off to the far end of the boat to watch and David (and my new brother-in-law) spelling me and we had that six foot, sharp-teethed, beautiful creature parallel to the boat.  We snapped a few shots, David cut the line and within minutes we saw another fin two hundred yards off twice as tall as our new found friend.  Thank goodness I hadn’t brought Sydney’s swimsuit.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Wonders of Nature @ The Harvard Museum of Natural History, Cambridge, MA

I worked at camps almost every summer of my young adult life.   One summer though, I decided I should get a REAL job that would build my resume.  I fell into an unpaid internship at Cultural Survival, an amazing non-profit loosely linked to the Harvard Anthropology Department that works to protect indigenous cultures around the globe.  Sometimes at lunch I would wander into the old Peabody museum and the glass flowers collection.  I am sure this somehow led me to my first job in teaching at the Museum School in New York, somehow...

As amazing as the collection was in 1992, it has since been totally renovated into a state-of-the-art, world class exhibit space.  We have gotten lost a few times with the boys in the endless Hall of Mammals.  And while many of the specimens are starting to crack a bit, it is no less impressive to look up at a whale skeleton here than it is to peer upon the blue whale at our fav the American Museum of Natural History in NYC. 

After a quick swing through the glass flowers and Minerals, Gems and Meteorites I rediscovered my roots.  There in the back corner was a hallway connector to the Peabody.  Three floors of amazing ethnographic discoveries just waiting for kids.  I couldn't recall back 18 years to whether those twenty foot murals from ancient Central America in Encounters with the Americas had stolen the show.  And as a big fan of Mexican culture, we were engrossed in the Dia de los Muertos exhibit (it didn't hurt that Halloween and hence Dia had just passed.)  Yet, we barely skimmed the surface and we will need another return trip.  I thought I was running out of Beantown Dadventures, it looks like I can book one at least.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Horticultural Paradise; Garden in the Woods, Framingham, MA

We spent a lot of time in the garden this summer.  We started with the season buying plants at Russell's and ended it when the tomatoes ran out at Verrils'.  But sometime we just need some inspiration for our green thumbs.  The diversity and density of species at Garden in the Woods just blows away rivals like the Mass. Horticultural Society's Elm Bank.

The New England Wildflower Society has really put together an amazing display, from the lily pond to the Western woods.  You can catch a glimpse of turtles on floating islands full of flowers and run through the meadows with wildflowers taller than the kids.  The Invasive Plant Jail is one of my favorites because it inspires me every spring to rip out all those annoying berry bushes that take over my side yard.

But the most amazing highlight of a visit is the art.  We walked through a beautiful twig house, and followed the wooden mazes through the trees.  But our highlight to date has to have been the Insects installation a couple of years ago featuring artist David Rogers.  His installation of giant spiders, ants, butterflies and more was spectacular.  You can still catch a giant walking stick (pun intended I think, 'cause it is made from sticks) off amongst the trees.  So enjoy the flowers, take the kids on a scavenger hunt and end your day at Sichuan Gourmet, our fav "real" Chinese in Metrowest and make it a day in Framingham.

Tonkarrific! Touch a Truck; Wayland, MA

Recently our best friend FoodieMommy left Natick and crossed north into Wayland.  It is a brave new world up there, even though it is just one block away. Everything is just fancier in Wayland, from the little pristine ponds to the cute little fire houses.  Even our favorite "wooden playground" is more than Natick can offer on our limited property taxes. Thankfully, the 5th Annual "Touch a Truck" event let's Wayland keep it real.

Lij reads about trucks, drives around toy trucks and talks endlessly about front-loaders, fire engines and bull dozers like an afficianado.  Yet, even Sydney was impressed with the line up at this event.  In addition to the standard fair offered at Natick Days; fire trucks, ambulances and cop cars, this show had giant lawn mowers, snow plows and some wierd electronic van (a local sponsor?  there were plenty).

But this was more than a truck event.  There were inflatable slides, bouncy houses and standard fair fare from Nathalie's pizza to some decent hotdogs.  While it didn't rival our local fall event with booths, games and more, it wasn't a bad way to spend a beautiful fall morning.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Blastown! Funtown/Splashtown USA, Scarborough, ME

To start off our Road Trip 2010 this summer we hit an ole standby (ok, we've been twice, but it's far!); Storyland.  To end our Road Trip, we hit up their main competitors in the NE, and it was close.  Storyland beats out both Funtown and York's Wild Kingdom for kid rides, and their super cool story themes.  But like York, Funtown is a two-fer.  You may get fuzzie-wuzzies at York, but you get crazy splashin' on the par of Water Country at Splashtown.  But, each of these spots was a little easier to swallow at the admissions counter with our friend the Breathe New Hampshire Fun Pass.  (Sydney got in free and it had already paid for itself our first trip to Storyland). 

We got prepped by hitting our hotel pool at 7AM, then headed off to Foodie Mommy's rec for breakfast; The Standard Baking Company.  That lady knows her prosciutto and cheese croissants.  She also seems to know her sticky buns and pain au chocolat too.  Anyway, I digress.  It was clear Lij wasn't feeling great, but we had been talking this place up to Sydney for weeks.  He and I hit the bumper cars and the Thunder Falls Log Flume.  Things were heating up.  We tried to get him on a couple of roller coasters, too short.  So, he wants to go to Casino.  Now, I'm not talking Foxwoods, this ride spins you up, down, around and then hits reverse.  The last time I was on one of these was at Canobie Lake in middle school, let's just say that time I made it to the bathroom.

Lij and Kam joined us for some great kiddie rides, especially the swings.  Then we hit Splashtown.  I thought Sydney might be more ready for the Portland Pirates Paradise, but it was a bit too shocking.  He opted for the tubes with mommy on Liquid Lightening.  Lij and I hung in the Family Fun Lagoon, but he was fading fast.  We grabbed a quick bite, got Sydney one more ride on Liquid and hit the road.  Oh, we'll be back!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Half Moon Memory; Crescent Beach State Park, Cape Elizabeth, ME

It has been over fifteen years since I combed Crescent Beach; a year out of college and temporarily east for another summer in Maine before I moved back out west.  Crescent is still one of my favs. While Portland has changed from a sleepy port town to a tourist mecca, Cape Elizabeth is still that tony suburb by the bay with miles of farms and prime oceanfront property.  Crescent changes only with geological time.  It is still a hop-skip and a jump from Two Lights, another fav state park amongst the many gems of our northern neighbors.  It is still that perfect mix of sand and rock, refreshing tide and fresh water feeders.  It is an explorers' dream.

We camped out right next to a feeder stream, winding down to the beach.  After sailing down our boats and constructing a few dams, we headed off for a walk.  Like many Maine beaches, Crescent is home to a stunning rocky outcrop, full of tide pools.  We discovered an old lobster pot, and what looked like a vertebrae of some large sea creature.  Sydney tossed old periwinkle shells off the rocks, followed by Lij.

We spent the better part of the afternoon building sandcastles and avoiding the creeping tide.  Thankfully, after a day of sun and surf, Kettle Cove Creamery and Cafe was right on our way back to the pool at our hotel.  We hit the Portland Lobster Company for dinner, which was more fun for good daddy/mommy drinks and views than it was for kids or serious lobster eaters.  All and all, a beautiful day at the beach.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

This is the End? Who Knew it was so Beachy; World's End, Hingham, MA

One of our first Dadventures in Beantown was long before there was a blog, back when Liji was just shaking off his first mommyventure.  Stroller and all, we trudged up the hill with two year old Sydney and settled in on a beautiful view of Boston.  Then the clouds rolled in and all I can remember is sprinting with a six month old, his stroller and someone carrying Sydney.  Today, was not that day.

The Trustees for Reservations spots are so incredible, it is almost impossible to imagine that they were ever in private hands.  Did the Cranes really have Crane Beach all to themselves?  Did local businessman John Werner really own this enchanted hillside on the bay in Hingham for just the fam?  Evidently Frederick Law Omstead of Central Park fame helped out a little on the design.  We love the Trustee lands, we just keep coming back for more.

This was a fitting cap to a summer of dadventures with my closest pal Adam and his daughter.  She led my boys down to the beach and spent an uninterrupted hour plus hunting hermit crabs with them while we caught up.  Covered in muck and happy as clams to get out of the heat, we headed for the tony downtown. We hit up Yelp for a local find and ran across the Square Cafe.  While our mud may not have suited the owner, the pasta sure suited us.  Thanks Hingham for a lovely day on the shore that felt a far cry from the end of the world, or the last place on earth.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Can Ice Cream Really Trump a Million Adventures?: Kimball Farm, Westford, MA

Yes, the ice cream at Kimball Farm is really worth the trip to Westford.  If you already love this 'hood for Nashoba Valley, then you just decided to tie the knot.  Mary Frawley aka "my work mom" who raised a couple of boys of her own is always a sure bet for recs.  She has been pushin' Kimball for years and we finally made it out today with our own of towners.  It was everything their exciting webpage promoted and more.

We started off with mini-golf.  We're not talking any Play Bosquet stuff we hit with them in the Berkshires.  We're talking hills, valleys, waterfalls and yes even two holes in a make-believe mine shaft.  Then we caught some bumper boats before lunch.  Sydney wasn't sure if he could handle it, but quickly decided afterward that flying solo was so the right choice.

Lunch was really no slouch either.  We had the fried clams and shrimp plates.  Perhaps no Woodmans of Ipswich rival, but it sure hit the spot after our "workout."  That's when the real fireworks began.  We hopped in the  Animal Adventures tent and caught a kinkajou and petted a python.  A quick beach volleyball Dadbreak and we were off to the cages.  Even Kam got in the swing, taking a few cracks at slow pitch softballs for the first time in her life.  She was aptly rewarded with the piece de resistance;  the kiddie cup.  Yeah, they're fooling you.  This mound of sugary, creamy wonder is not fit for kiddies, but it sure capped a fantastic dadventure.

A Rainbow of Fun; The Loker Park Tot Lot, Natick, MA

aka the "Rainbow Playground"

This playground has traditionally been more of a momventure than a dadventure, but I happened to land their with mommy and the boys this weekend after a great trip to the Natick Farmer's Market on the Commons this weekend (which you can check out at my bud Foodie Mommie's wicked awesome blog.   We were surprising her for dinner that night with some pork ribs from the Chestnut Farms CSA
stand, and as mommy often does on her way back from the Commons, she stopped for a quick hit on the "Rainbow playground."

There is plenty to conquer for both tots and preK's at this lovely spot across from the famous Walnut Hill Arts School.  Perhaps that is why on this day, one of the heros from the 2008 Celtics Championship season showed up with his kids.  Our very own Brian Scalabrine was making his way through this magical rainbow tunnel with his tots.  As if having a 6'9" red-head on your playground wasn't a tip, wifey blew his cover with a "hey Brian, if you want to do __ we need to get going."

The bigger celebrity for Sydney was his classmate Catherine, who just happened to be there.  After a romp on their awesome climbing walls, and a hard core game of rolling down the hills, we settled in for a few tire swing tangles.  Check them out on YouTube as they work on perfecting their new jams "Mary had a little HORSE."  Overall, a great stop from the Commons any day.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Peace and Quiet in the Wilds; Wildwood Community, Granville, MA

Ahhh... the sweet sounds of birds chirping in the morning.  Ok, maybe it was six AM, but that tells you just how quiet things are in the Wildwood planned vacation community.  Originally intended to be the "Chamonix of the Berkshires," Wildwood is a lovely vacation spot for owners and renters built around spectacular Cranberry Pond, with no motor boats and only limited cellur service (detox for us Crackberry addicts).  My dad picked it out for our summer vacation week as more peaceful alternative to the Cape.

We spent most of the week fishing, canoeing (although we couldnt bring our own canoe, dang Zebra mussle scare), and of course swimming.  Sydney spent most of the week swimming to and from one of the four beaches to the perfectly carpeted floating docks.  Until he realized there were fancy floating mats under the house.  Then he really got crazy mixing noodles, surfing and diving.  Daddy spent a lot of time going for long swims and built sand castles, mommy read all of Jane Austin's "Emma" and Elijah mastered the beach toys many purposes (check him out on YouTube).

After a long Road Trip south and Kami's recent trip to Manhattan to receive her Award at BlogHer, this was the perfect anecdote.  We only left the house to go to Tanglewood and for a couple of hikes in Granville and Tolland State Forests despite all the wonderful nearby adventures in the Berkshires.  So if you need to get away from it all, and you just want a couple hours in the car to do it, check out Wildwood.

A Lovely Tromp Through the Woods: Tolland State Forest, Tolland, MA

Perhaps when you think of the Berkshires, you think of Tanglewood or Jacob's Pillow.  But, just maybe you came with the kids to get away from it all.  Just maybe, you wanted to be alone with the fam, not surrounded by thousands of artistic junkies.  Then Tolland is the place for you.

While the motor boats on Otis Reservoir were a bit disconcerting while tromping in nature, this was a beautiful body of water.  We opted for the "Healthy Heart" Gillmore Trail.  Not simply because we just can't get enough of that wacky mother and daughter team.  More, because I really was hoping that if we didn't go too far, Liji could make the entire trek on his own two feet (re: the end of the daddy backpack please!).

Well, we started to climb and ole Liji's legs gave out, but he opted for grandpa's shoulders (phew).  Grandpa regaled us with that time that he and I summited like 70 peaks in three days, including Mt. Washington when I was just a few months older than Sydney is now.  (It was like 20 below one night at Lake of the Clouds people, and the dog almost froze!)  Ironically we had just been there, so I reminded Sydney what a crazy idea this was for a five year old.  Anyway, we had a lovely tromp, caught up on some more salamanders, checked out the woodpecker holes and made it safely back in time for lunch.  The perfect hike.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Salamanders Ho! Granville State Forest, Granville, MA

We are Department of Conservation and Resources (DCR) junkies.  I hate to admit it, but they put together a good party.  At our home base on Lake Cochituate they remove trees from your dock if a winter storm wanders by.  They maintain pristine beaches and beautiful lakes with flair.  They provide clear and accessible maps online and at each site.  I have visited a lot of state parks in my day, and I must say DCR rocks!

We set-up camp in the Berkshires this summer in Granville with dad and his longtime companion Allison.  This town is a small, former farming community near the Connecticut border, and our stay in Wildwood has been dreamy.  Swimming all day, fishing early and often and paddling our hearts out.  We went for a little change of pace this morning by starting with a hike, and the boys couldn’t have been more thrilled.

Every twist and turn of these well-maintained trails was littered with red spotted salamanders (they are both scientists, so we learned that this was like the tadpole stage of newts).  Last night, we were lucky to skip another night in the tent because it was two inches deep in water when we awoke.  But what a bonanza for the wildlife!  These salamanders crossed us at every turn.  Little peeper frogs hopped across the trail in droves.  There were so many types of fungus, my dad (or Mr. Wizard as they used to call him) couldn’t even keep up with all of Sydney’s questions.  So when you are done riding horses at Undermountain Farms, or splashing at Play Bosquet come on out to Granville for a taste of the wild.