Sunday, January 24, 2010

Where the Party Never Ends: Boston Sports Club, Waltham, MA

Boston Sports Club
840 Winter Street
Waltham, MA

I have often wondered what lurked on the other side of Cambridge Reservoir as I zip past every morning on 128. Well ladies and gentlemen, if you live within shouting distance of Winter Street in Waltham and love to work out in style, this is the place for you. Is it the Aqua Tai Chi that first piqued my interest, you wonder? Perhaps it's the gigantic, beautiful bball courts that make the TD Garden look like its old predecessor. No people, it's the kiddie parties.

Now, I'm not talking any Y-M-C-A parties here. I mean, the Dominos pizza looks and even tastes the same. But I ask you, do they have a working helicopter on their play structure after millions of dollars in renovations at the Y? Nooooooo! Do they bring out not one, not two, not even three, but four full-time staff to run, jump and act crazy with your kids in Newton Corner? Noooooooo! Most importantly, can you slamma jamma with your daddy friends at the Y on their seven foot rim? I think not!

Granted, I have no idea how much this delightful party for our 'cuz Ronen's fourth birthday set back his Drs. Newton mom and dad. I also didn't get in the pool or check out their Pro shop. But man, after two hours of trampoline, two stories of play structure and a few alley-hoops from my main man Don, I was ready for bed. Oh yeah, the kids fell asleep on the car ride home before I could even read them "Let's Go Celtics," by Aimee Aryal. Oh well !

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Escape from Boston: Chinatown, Boston

what better get-away then a foodie tour of Chinatown with kids, where chopsticks and bit-size snacks rule.

Boston, MA

Growing up in the '80's, Chinatown was as close as we got to Miami Vice; "quick Sonny, cover me while I run in for a roast pork bun at Ho Yuen." In the 90's we would hop the Fung Wa to Chinatown NYC. Was life really just worth a $10 flaming ride of death to the Big Apple in our twenties?

Now that I have grown up a bit, my favorite tri-fecta is the train in, the aquarium and dim sum for lunch. Sure, it's weird walking through a bamboo park where there used to be homeless men, (still one, thank goodness.) Ho Yuen is still there, but the bullets seem to have moved on. Mohegan Sun buses have arrived, and poor Fung Wa is still chugging, (a few more fires later and stiff competition from Lucky Star and the Bolt bus.) You can even still get great produce your kids can't pronounce at jaw-dropping prices and the arches still make it feel like you are off on the other side of the globe. There's even rare, free street parking on Sundays for the taking.

Our latest adventure finally got us around to China Pearl. I try to keep up on the Chowhound dim sum wars, but was stuck dining in the 'burbs with the kids more often than not this year. Our friends warned of an hour wait, but we were in before the mad rush. Golden dragons on the walls and tiled roof motifs made it feel just like Beijing, (ok, I've never been there, but I really want to go! Maybe more like cheesy suburban Beijing dining in the midwest.) Decor aside, the food was great, the service better than most and Sydney even interrupted his narwal fencing chopsticks game to quote Amy Wilson Sanger's Yum Yum Dim Sum. For just a couple of hours as we wound down from watching seals and fish we pretended to be swept away to the far east.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Enchanted New England: Drumlin Farm, Lincoln, MA

Drumlin Farm
208 South Great Road
Lincoln, MA

Warning! There will be no trace of objectivity in this post. I have been traipsing the paths of Drumlin Farm since I was Sydney's age. I am convinced that the Great Horned Owl there is the same one who haunted me in 1976. I am also pretty sure that Sydney finds going below the fox's den almost as cool as the hayrides, just as I did a generation ago.

If all of the beauty of the flora and fauna wasn't enough for you, admission is included in your Mass Audubon membership. The same group that has single-
handedly saved our Bay state's wilds has created one of the best working farms in the nation. We can't wait for Sydney to be old enough for their Summer Camp. What better way to spend a week in your fourth July then gardening and feeding goats? We'll maybe reading Punk Farm by Jarret Krosoczka for homework.

Today, my wife discovered why New England is not just magic in the summer and fall, but how the winter really changes the paradigm of a place. Drumlin is transformed in a blanket of white and is a great place to bring the cross-country skis in a new snow fall. In true Audubon fashion they have a million programs to suit the season. So winter, spring, summer or fall make the trek to Drumlin and maybe next time you'll be tasting some of Sydney's summer
produce from his class at their CSA farm.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sleds Away: Elm Bank (Winter Redux), Wellesley, MA

Sydney comes prepared for the elements with his game face and his board. I think he won.

Elm Bank Reservation
900 Washington Street
Wellesley, MA

Sure, I reported on Elm Bank in the height of the summer when the flowers of the Massachusetts Horticultural were in full-bloom. But one of the simplest pleasures of living in New England is how radically the seasons can change the face of a place. As we turned in to the bridge entrance over the Charles tributary Sydney and I didn't even recognize the place in its new blanket of snow. (In fact he didn't believe me that we were at Elm Bank, even though he and mommy come here regularly and the kid has the memory of an elephant). Grandma from Jane Brett's The Mitten would never have sewn us the white ones on this day, as the wind made little snow devils across the field.

It's been a dadventure extravaganza this week; cross-country this morning, downhill the day before, skating, museums, Playtown, etc. What was possibly left to do in this winter wonderland? Whoops, we forgot to go sledding! It might have been 20 degrees and 35 mile an hour winds, but Sydney never noticed. He held on to that sled like he was preparing for the Vancouver 2010 games, (we can only hope!) The pitch was perfect for a future luger. Only a run with dad on board ended in a face-full of snow and promises of Bakery on the Common's hot chocolate fairies dancing through our heads.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Guest Blog: The Hills are Alive: The Trappe Family Lodge, Stowe, VT

"The Hills are Alive" with the Doron-Czerniach family, not to be confused with the von Trappe family who founded the resort after fighting off the Nazis as memorialized in the Sound of Music.

Guest blogger Shira Doron reports from the hills of Vermont at the:

Trapp Family Lodge
700 Trapp Hill Road
Stowe, VT

If you live in New England, and you want a vacation that doesn't involve flying, you will have to resign yourself to the fact that it won't be a warm one. And as long as it's going to be cold, you may as well EMBRACE the cold and go somewhere where snow is revered as an implement of fun and an item of beauty, rather than an commuter's impediment. We chose the Trapp Family Lodge. Considered a "small luxury hotel" you will probably experience some pain in your wallet

The food is expensive (breakfast buffet for a family of four will run you $70 and dinner is well over $200) and so are most of the activities, like snow-shoeing, cross-country skiing and sleigh rides. Nevertheless, you can't help but be impressed with the vast wooded property all coated with white and not a dirty Boston snowbank in sight (see the view from our hotel room that had a door opening right out onto the snow). There are 100 kilometers of trails including a 3-mile hike to a cabin where you can have lunch and warm up (too far for my little ones). There is no shortage of fire places (see photo) to cuddle in front of, and a card and game room features great board games like Harry Potter Clue. Kids' activities (no parents allowed- yay!) include animal shows, jewelry making, and movie matinees. On New Years' eve we dropped the kids off for a kids-only party (miraculously free of charge) where they were given pizza and chicken fingers and had the option to use the rock wall, play ping pong, and/or go swimming (my kids swam for two hours, obligating one of the counselors to hold my 3-year-old non-swimmer in the water the entire time- man, was she pruny!)

The Stowe Mountain resort is 10 miles away. Available programs for kids include a 2-hour "Three Ski" class for 3-year-olds and either a two-hour (for beginners only) or all-day school for kids ages 4 and up."

Guest Blog: Get Ready for the Frozen North 2010: Winter Carnival, Quebec, Canada

Don and Jadon tear it down the ice slide.

Guest Blogger Shira Doron prepares us for the annual:
Winter Carnival
290 Rue Joly
Quebec City
Quebec, Canada

Buy a DVD player for the car and head to Quebec City. Prepare to be transported. Quebec lacks nothing compared to Europe, and I doubt there is a more special Winter Carnaval anywhere. The kids were enthralled with the carnival's mascott, Bonhomme, a giant snowman who made brief appearanced everywhere. Absolutely everything is made of ice and is a sight to behold. Don't be a crazy New Jersey JAP like me and fail to dress for the occasion.

You will spend every day all day outside so wear snow pants and wool socks for God's sakes. The surface of everything is covered with snow, so don't even bother bringing a stroller unless it's all-terrain. Kids get pulled around on sled which are available for free. I know you're regimented, but let the kids stay up late one night to see the nightly parade. It rivals Macy's on Thanksgiving. So what are you waiting for? Gas up the car and go. It's really not that far (if you have movies).

First Freshies: Nashoba Valley Ski Area, Westford, MA

Sydney and cousin Sklyar ride their own, personal magic carpet, cousin Carey up the bunny hill. Nashoba may be little, but it's perfect for beginners.

Nashoba Valley Ski Area
79 Power Rd
Westford, MA

Dadventures were defined in the snow for me. I put on first pair of wooden boards at age two at the Dartmouth Cross Country Ski Center and it has all downhill from there. My dad and I have spent innumerable hours crossing the globe, shoving our feet into boots and bombing down the moguls. Today was Sydney's second time out, and who better to share it with that one of my favorite dadventurers, Cousin Carey. Carey was a kayak guide in Chile, has torn up the slopes of New England and generally shares my ambition for crazy outdoor fun. It is obvious that his daughter Skylar will do the same.

A quick phone call last night, a check off the freshies forecast (3-4 by morning), a perusal of Curious George in the Snow by H.A. Rey and we were off. Thirty-five minutes from my house (yes people, 35 minutes to pow-pow door to door) and we were on the hill. Sydney made me buy a full lift ticket, even though Nashoba has a nice feature for the under five set: $20 for the bunny hill. In the end, those two blue runs with him gripping me for deal life and laughing so loud my ears hurt off the chair were more than worth the extra $20 for me. Sure, Nashoba is not the alps, the lodge needs a little more room and Sydney could have used some beginner blues, but all in all, three hours later we were beat. The first step in a ridiculously expensive and rewarding adventure career.