Wednesday, February 23, 2011

EPCOT's Retro Tomorrow; Walt Disney World, Lake Buena Vista, FL

1510 North Avenue of the Stars 
Lake Buena Vista, FL

'83 was a good year.  Despite the fact that I was wearing shorts that were too short and I was like 6'4" and not yet in middle school, I thought I looked pretty hip in front of Spaceship Earth the year this futuristic mothership opened.   It's been twenty-eight years and I am not sure how we have both aged.  I think I am little bigger around the middle, and so too is my friend EPCOT.

The foundation of a good day at EPCOT can be divided into food and robots.  Future World is chock full of animatronic, well-dressed characters that blast you to the past and the future.  We started our day with them in the Spaceship Earth Attraction and ended it with some crazy disappearing dragon called Figment (yes, of your imagination) at the Journey into Imagination.  We also stopped in on our buddy Nemo at The Seas.

But it was the food that took the day.  We went 'round the world in less than 80 days, yet managed to eat and drink from at least four continents.  We grabbed our passports in Canada and made our way to a surprisingly delicious lunch in Morocco (even though we missed the belly dancers).  We stopped for a fife and drum parade in the States and made our way over to Germany.  Now, I don't usually think good food when I think of Deutschland, but the beer was solid and the caramel covered pretzels even better.  We finished off our global tour with a ride on a Viking ship in Norway and terracotta warriors in China where we picked up our last passport stamps. We skipped the second DadBreak of a margarita in Mexico. It was a whirlwind tour, but it must be time to head home.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Disneyrific; Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom; Lake Buena Vista, FL

Walt Disney World; Magic Kingdom
4600 North World Drive
Lake Buena Vista, FL

There are the haves and the have nots, the half-fulls and the half-empties, and then there are the Disney and the non-Disney.  Tonight, I saw the light, and I think her name was Tink (check it out on YouTube as she soars from the top of the Cinderella Castle to the roof of a Tomorrowland building).  My wife has always been hardcore Disney, much the way she is hardcore Grrrl punk.  I am not sure how the two mix, but it works for her.  Tonight, I watched Sydney's face light up as he yelled "woaaah" alongside me three hundred times and I left the Dark Side for her sunny side of the street.

After a brief ride over on the ferry we got the party started with what else? a party!  Mickey sure can shake it on Main street.  We hit Tony's (aka Tramp's mack daddy, from Lady and the Tramp  - our fav Disney flick of the moment) for lunch.  Yeah, I made Kami slurp up a spaghetti noodle with me 'til we kissed.  We then hit the Magic Carpets, grabbed a FastPass for Big Thunder Mountain for 4:30PM and headed for Fantasyland.   Between a nap for Liji, we still managed four turns on Prince Charming's Carousel, It's a Small World (check out how it's changed on this YouTube clip), Dumbo , the Mad Tea Party and hooked the boys up with embroidered Mickey ears.  The highlight of the afternoon was Sydney and I taking off for our FastPass date at Thunder Mountain (my fav ride from when I was a kid).  That kid loves a mean roller coaster!

You would think by 5:30PM we would be toast.  That's when auntie Dee pulled out the big guns.  Dinner with Winnie and co. at the Crystal Palace.  Perhaps it was the surprisingly decent buffet, but I swear Kam has never hugged me as hard as she squeezed that giant Eyore.  The highlight of the whole day though was the Main Street Electric Parade.  Lij sat speechless for 30 minutes as every character we introduced him to in the last six months passed by in flashing neon.  He didn't make it for the final act, but Sydney loved his first fireworks at the Wishes Nighttime Spectacular.  That my friend, was not false advertising. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Seaworthy Break from the Cold; Sea World, Orlando, FL

It's been the winter we measured snowfall in Shaq's and you could tell by the sea of Sox caps as we deplaned in Orlando onto the runway; (where else can you still walk on the tarmac AND stay at a hotel IN the airport?)  Like every other law abiding Sox fan that couldn't afford spring training, we shacked up with the family for a week in sunny Orlando.  While we love us some good Disney, we warmed up at our family fav; Sea World.

Sydney and I hit the Journey to Atlantis flume with cuz Mikella early and paid dearly in drenched clothes.   Then the whole family, (I mean my uncle, in-laws, Kam's aunt, uncle and their two kids along with ours) headed for the show circuit.  We missed out on Pets Ahoy (no real loss here) and made it on time for Blue Horizons.  The music, the costumes, the trapeze artists, the dive bombing parrots and oh yeah, the dolphins.  It was like Cirque de Soleil on ice, except they forgot to freeze the pool.  Did I mention there were dolphins?

Last time we were here was pre-Shamu disaster.  Let's just say the show is a little different these days, and nobody is riding on top of a killer whale.  It was a little bit of a let down, 'cause watching trainers do flips off the nose of a humongous whale was pretty cool.  So we got our kicks on the rides at Shamu's Happy Harbor instead.  Plus, we never miss a chance at a good carousel and this one featured fish of the deep.  While we didn't hang with too many mammals this time (we missed the manatees, sea otters and seals) and the beer garden has gone the way of Anheuser Busch ownership, we still had a blast!  

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Venture on the Farm, Great Brook Ski Touring, Carlisle, MA

If ever there was a "scene" in the cross-country world, this is the place.  From the outfits to the Subaru wagons in the filled, endless parking lot, who knew outdoorsy types got it on like this.  We met our Aunt Kathi and her boys Ari and Nate for a little morning stroll around the loop.  Our boys are in love with their middle school cousins, so as soon as we hit the snow, Sydney was off in a mad dash with Ari.  They had been out of pulk sleds since they opened early at 8:30AM, so today was the day for Liji's first xcountry ski adventure.

Liji is a talker.  Last night as his brother slept next to him, he spent the entire late night ride from Westwood, recapping the movie Ponyo we had just seen with our other cousins Skylar, Lexi, Roni and Jadon.  Today, was no exception.  He was so excited to get his skis on, but even more excited to provide a running dialogue on the form of every person that passed us by. Ten feet of skiing, ten minutes of pause and he bested Howard Cossell and the Battle of the Network Stars (featuring Wonderwoman). 

Sydney had a great round with his cuz, but did crash and burn with a nasty blister at the end.  We were saved by Ferns' Country Store.  There is nothing a little ham and cheese with a side of bandaids that we cant fix.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Snow Day! Sledding at Walnut Hill, Natick, MA

For those of you following from afar, it has been a winter wonderland here in Greater Boston.  This is our third snow day this season and the  banks are so high, we can barely see our neighbor's house.  The NY Times says it is sunny and warm in northern Canada, so thanks for the Arctic winds Canucks!  We've gone Xcountry in Weston , downhill at Smuggs and sledding at Elm Bank.  We decided last snow day to try a new spot.

The Walnut Hill School  brings kids from all over the world to study performing arts.  They must have been indoors today.  Usually Kam hangs out across the street at the Loker Street playground.  But, the other day as we were heading with our new sled (it has since been buried in the front yard somewhere, yes, trust me we looked through the snow for twenty minutes) to Elm Bank again, we remembered just how windy it can be.  I had an image in my head of Walnut Hill and kids sledding their past winters.  It was in great shape and mobbed.

This morning the snow had stopped by seven and the sun was out, so we headed back to Walnut Hill.  We made the tracks.  A foot of fresh snow and we carried Liji up the hill.  We made our own toboggan run (see Kam on You Tube with our new Old Timey movie 8 mm app.)  Ten runs later we hit our old haunt Mel's for burgers and fries and are ready for naps.  Oh how I love a good snow day.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Smugg's Ski Dating, Nordic Style; The Nordic Center at Smuggler's Notch Resort, Jeffersonville, VT

You have read about my DadBreaks from Naggs Head boogie boarding to a little beach volleyball at Kimballs' Farm in Westwood.  But I think it is fair to say we have turned a corner Houston.  First, she ASKS ME to run the Charles River 5K with her and now we are going out on dates that involve X country skiing.  AND SHE LIKED IT!

My girl is from Miami.  In my late twenties I broke it off with this hottie 'cause she couldn't imagine skiing with me.  I was fresh off the west coast, what did I know people?  I turned in my skis for the Met, lunch at Bouley Bakery and a lot of long walks through lower Manhattan and fell in love with her anyway.  But secretly I knew that with a little patience I could bring her over to the dark side.  

Ten years later she smiled a little a mile into a ski at Weston.  I blamed it on the sun.  I thought it might have reminded her of the beach.  But today it was cloudy, snowy and ten degrees and she was STILL smiling.  Maybe it was the spectacular views, the stunning snow conditions?  It certainly wasn't teaching her to duck walk up steep green trails.  Well check her out heading downhill here on YouTube.  A natural skier.  What snowy icing on the proverbial wedding cake. 

Smugg's Ski Break? Bouncy House? The Fun Zone; Smuggler's Notch Resort, Jeffersonville, VT

When the weather outside is frightful and we've already played in the snow, our family loves a good indoor play space.  The boys adore them so much, they are having a joint birthday at Playtown Express, the mother of all indoor spaces.  With a great mountain, ski school and pool what else could you possibly want here at Smuggler's?  How 'bout a space to rival the best of them.

This place was stocked.  It had your standard super inflated slide and bouncy houses of every shape and size.  There were two, yeah two, kinds of mini-golf.  I had never even seen billiards mini-golf.  Don't ask me to explain it.  We skipped the arcade, and still spent two hours Apres Ski running like madmen with not a mention of the crazy pool complex from the day before.  Hey Smugg's, you're just rubbin' it in the face of the competition. 

Smugg's U; Snow Sport University, Smuggler's Notch; Jeffersonville, VT

I've spent almost thirty years in schools as a student, teacher and now principal.  But the best school I ever attended was ski school.  On my week-long forays to Colorado with my dad, I got mornings with kids my age learning the mountain and moves, and afternoons with dad showing off.  I loved Steamboat's Ski School.  One year, my instructor (who was on telemark skis) broke a binding.  Did he blink?  No.  He hit the moguls with one tele ski all the way down.  I still aspire to his greatness.

It was hard to give up time with the boys and send them to ski school.  I can teach them a lot of things, but I remembered how fun ski school was, so we gave it a shot.  Smugg's Snow Sport University is serious business.   We dropped Lij at Treasures for their Little Rascals program. The wonderful staff there let him play hard inside and hit the slopes hard on the outside.  He ran in there without so much as a "goodbye" on day two.  He came back today jabbering about pizza slices and french fries, and he wasn't talkin' lunch.  Not bad for still two.

Sydney spent the day at their Discovery Dynamos and I couldn't get him out of there.  I thought I'd check-in at lunch and see if he wanted to ski with his old man for a bit.  "I'm going back out dad!" he swatted in passing as I sat and waited for him like the goofy kid on prom night.  His teacher kindly referred to him as "my assistant instructor."  Four times up the lift, and not a frown in sight.  I don't know what magic pudding they feed 'em at lunch here at Smugg's, but it sure does work.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Smugg's Downhill; Smuggler's Notch Resort, Jeffersonville, VT

I am a ski snob.  There, I admit it.  Every winter my dad "dragged" me out to Colorado for the Winter Conference on Brain Research (check them out those  nueroscientists singing  on YouTube, really!)  This may not sound sexy to you, but for me it was a week off school every year at Aspen, Vail, Keystone and my all time fav Steamboat Springs.  I was so inspired by the runs, the hot tubs and (as I got older in the 80's), those hot pink ski pants that I vowed never to ski east again, and moved out there the minute I graduated college.

Given the impact that fuel costs have on flights from Beantown to the Rockies, we decided to go local this weekend.  I had never been to the Northern Kingdom of Vermont, and Foodie Mommy rec'd Smugg's from a summer post.  Sydney and I started our day at  Sir Henry's Learning and Fun Park when the magic carpet opened.   We took our chances on Mogul Mouse's Magic Lift and followed under it on Magic Learning Trail which was a perfect last run for him to get him ready for his first big day of ski school tomorrow.   Lij hit the magic carpet a few times too, wheeeing all the way home.

But it was my afternoon DadBreak (thanks babe for getting this blog weekend comped and then letting me ski, you rock!), that lead me to Madonna.  I found her on my sweet, new Smugg's App for my iphone.  This lovely lady of a lift gave me access to some of the best double blacks in the east.  The pitch was perfect, the bumps in great shape and there was actually snow covering most of them (sorry Killington, but your sheer ice excuse for moguls almost killed me in college).  Four tough runs later and we hit the hot tub at our majestic two bedroom condo suite.  How suite it is, this MLK weekend!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Berenstain Bears Bare All; Leventhal-Sidman Jewish Community Center, Newton, MA

Guest Blogger: Kami Lewis Levin
 Leventhal-Sidman Jewish Community Center 
333 Nahanton Street
Newton, MA

I grew up in performing arts magnet schools.  I danced, my brother sang and played guiter, and my sister was in the theatre.  (Go on.  Say with an obnoxious British accent.)  Performing is in my blood.  And so, I want to raise my children to love artistic endeavors.  So far, so good.  Sydney, Liji and Seth have formed a Sunday morning rock band that plays the likes of Frere Jacques in their particular punk style.  And, we have an awesome art table that the kids sit at and draw on for hours.  But we haven't done much in the way of theater-going, so when Seth noticed that the Berenstain Bears were performing at the Newton J.C.C., we were all over it.

It turns out, the J.C.C. actually has children's theater performances quite regularly through their Magic Ark Performance Series.  Who knew?  (Probably you, but not me...)  For us, the Berenstain Bears was a perfect match because of late, Sydney has been quite obsessed with that beary crew.  
And, I'd like to think he was pretty psyched for some alone time with me. 
The show was sold out, as most J.C.C. shows are, so Seth was brilliant to purchase our tickets online in advance.
There were mats set up in the "orchestra" section so kids could sit nice and close.  Risers with chairs filled up the house and this house was packed to the gills with laughing, bear-loving folk between the ages of 2 and 82.  The set, costumes, singing and dancing combined to produce high-quality children's theater.  The plot was a mish-mash of three different Berenstain Bears stories, two of which Sydney and I practically knew by heart.  The hour long production was a perfect outing for a cold, gray, winter's day.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Skatastic! The Loring Rink, Framingham, MA

The height of sixth grade cool growing up was chasing girls on skates at the old MDC rink on Soldiers Field Road.  Why not get my boys ready early?  I mean, how embarrassing would it be if one of them was skating backwards and fell on his butt in front of the cutest girl in the class (ok, maybe I did that). 

Sydney got out on skates early.  He was still two (by three weeks people), when we put blades of steel on his feet and hobbled around the rink.  Last winter we got out on our back nine,  Lake Cochituate, when our cool neighbor plowed a rink off our dock.  We even discovered the coolest old man walker for mini-skaters I've ever seen at Floyd Hall rink in Jersey.  By the end of that session he was out on his own.

Today, with his new skates on Sydney let me drag him around for about thirty seconds.  Then he decided to head out on his own.  Sure, all those hard core Jr. Flyer  kids were flying by him with pads and helmets, but I didn't say I want him on the hockey team people! (Although our 9th grade babysitter on the Natick Comets Girls' team is pretty cool)  A few minutes later we hit the snack bar for cocoa and a pretzel.  One more hard fall and we were out of there.  It won't be the last knock on the head, that's for sure.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Zooooom into Boston's Past; The Larz Anderson Auto Museum, Brookline, MA

We have celebrated New Year's since 2001 every year but one with one of my good friends from Brookline.  We faced off as volleyball rivals while he was at Brookline High (they always killed Newton North, so maybe rivals is a bit of an overstatement.)  We then co-captained the team in college and met up again in grad school and it has been twenty years now.  I was always a little jealous of those Brookline kids; the hair, the clothes, that urban swagger.  We even looked to move there first on our return from NYC.  That was before I even knew about Larz Anderson.

They had brought their boy Luca to the outdoor ice rink this week on a recent homecoming (which I am now dieing to bring Sydney to).  What I didn't realize was that this expansive estate includes acres of rolling hills, gardens, bbq spots and of course it's own museum.  Anderson's wife, Isabel Weld Perkins (as in Bill Weld, her grandpappy who left her $17 million, and our former Gov's namesake) clearly bankrolled this chateau-inspired land-grab.  They were one of the first families at the turn of last century to collect new cars like we collect matchboxes in my house.

Kami and I appreciated the beautifully designed carriage house, which holds the oldest collection of cars in the country.  Sydney and Elijah were in love with the chance to play with giant racecars in the kids' room.  The restoration garage was pretty cool too.  But we clearly missed the high season; "we host Lawn Events almost every Saturday and Sunday throughout the spring, summer, and fall!"  Evidently, the high hippy turn-out for Volkswagon day is not to be missed.