Category Archives: Family Outings

Our trip to New York City

We decided to take one last little trip as a family of 3. We had promised Little Dude for quite some time that we would take him to “the dinosaur museum”, and finally got around to doing so.

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First time in the Lincoln Tunnel

We drove to Lyndhurst, NJ, where we were staying the night, and caught a bus to the Port Authority. Little Dude and I had never been on public buses in the US, so this was a new experience for both of us. He was most impressed by how high up we were. It’s the little things. From there we boarded the subway and took that to the vicinity of Battery Park. Thankfully we had all agreed to take the Bob stroller, because by the time we got within view of Lady Liberty, LD was passed out. Out cold. We tried to wake him up, but really only got him up and out with the promise of a snack. All 3 of us thought Battery Park would give us a  closer view of the statue, so we were a little disappointed by that. But it was a beautiful day and there was a lovely breeze, so we stood there for a while and watched the boats come and go. And then LD was DONE. We headed to Terri’s (for me) and Au Bon Pain (for them) for lunch. And again he was DONE.

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From there we subwayed back to the 50th street station and headed to Rockefeller Center. LD was out cold once again by the time we got there. We wandered around for a bit and then decided to take advantage of his nap and walk through St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I was there years and years ago, but it’s been renovated since then and is simply gorgeous. I spent a good bit of time reading each of the plaques about the various saints and artifacts. It takes your breath away.

By then Little Dude needed to run around. We took him to Central Park and stopped for a minute to sit on a bench near a flock of pigeons.

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LD was mesmerized. He couldn’t get enough of those birds. We had to PRY him away. But then he saw the rocks. And he decided that he had to climb every rock we saw. He’s never been very adventurous, so this surprised me, but what surprised me even more was how well he did on them. He climbed them as if he did so all the time. We spent a good bit of time at the various rocks, then at the carousel, and finally at one of the many playgrounds. He was good and tired.

From there we went back to the bus station and painfully navigated that system, and finally found ourselves back at the hotel. We stayed at a Quality Inn. It was what you’d expect. But LD thought it was the best thing ever.

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He LOVES hotels. He willingly goes to bed because he thinks the beds in them are awesome. He was so excited to get there and swim in the pool, so we decided to put off dinner. After playing in the pool for about 45 minutes, we went to dinner. We weren’t in the best area for food, and ended up at a PF Chang’s. I have to say that it was a miserable experience. Our service was SOOOOOO slow. we got there around 8:45pm and didn’t get out until nearly 11pm.

Day 2 came quickly. We decided to drive into the city this time, and it ended up being a super smart choice. I think it cost us $5 more in the end but it saved us sooooo much time. Our destination was the American Museum of Natural History, so we parked in their garage. We got there just before 11am, and S predicted LD wouldn’t last very long. Boy was he wrong. This kid was in his element. He loves animals so much. He’s obsessed with the PBS show Wild Kratts, and has memorized soooo many facts about lots of animals- ones I know nothing about. There were times when I thought his poor head was going to explode. He was desperate to find the dodo bird skeleton and wanted his picture taken with it. (Excuse the poor photo; it was the only way to actually capture the skeleton. If I used the flash to get him in the photo, I lost the skeleton.)

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This is him schooling S about the differences between a cheetah and a leopard. He was so intense. Note the finger.

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He went on and on and on about the differences between alligators and crocodiles. He ran to one, spouted off a fact, to the other, spouted off another fact, and then repeated the cycle over and over. He was just so excited. It was so adorable. I wish I had video of that, but we were just enjoying it too much.

Collectively, our favorite floor was 4, which has all of the dinosaur skeletons. It had the coolest thing I’ve ever seen: the titanosaur. Whoa. Just whoa. This thing was ginormous.

 

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Yay for panorama setting!!

We spent about 4 hours and 20 minutes at the museum and I felt like we RAN through it. We didn’t even do any of the special exhibits. I would totally go back there. Oh – and by the way, if you plan a visit there, know that it’s a pay-as-you-wish museum. They ask that you pay the suggested rate if you are able, but if you can’t, you pay what you can.

After the museum, we hit up a little hole in the wall sushi place. The waiter gave LD some training chopsticks and he demolished 2 veggie rolls. It was a fantastic little place with delicious food and prices that were super wallet friendly. Afterwards we treated him to an ice cream cone from one of the trucks outside Central Park.

We really had to get going, but he really wanted to climb more rocks in Central Park. We gave him a half hour, and he got some good climbing in! This particular one freaked this momma out a bit (though it doesn’t look so bad in pictures), but S stayed right behind him the whole time. He was a cool, confident climber. His uncle is going to have a blast taking him climbing over the next few years!

We had so much fun and promised LD that we’d go back some day when Avocado is big enough. But honestly, all this kid needs is a hotel with a pool and some rocks to climb on. He’s pretty easy to please!

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We suck at vacationing

We just got back from a pretty crummy vacation. Instead of rambling on and on about it, I’ll give you the down and dirty.

The Good Stuff

  1. The beach house was free (hubby’s cousin’s in-laws own it).
  2. The beach house was awesome (4 BR, 3 BA, great views, etc).
  3. I had a yummy vegan bagel BLT at the Mad Batter in Cape May.
  4. We had good beer at the Mad Batter, Cape May Brewing, Victory Brewing and SlyFox Brewing.
  5. We had halfway decent wine at the Cape May Winery and Hawk Haven Winery.
  6. I didn’t have to do much cleaning.

The Not-So-Good Stuff

  1. It was chilly. It was in the mid-60s on Monday and got cooler from there. (The forecast originally predicted temps at least 10 degrees higher.)
  2. It was windy. It started off with winds around 20 mph. By Wednesday night, we had gale warnings.
  3. It rained. It rained here and there Monday through Wednesday afternoon, and then it be came pretty torrential. Parts of Sea Isle City (where we stayed) and Cape May were closed due to flooding.
  4. Little Dude developed a nasty, nasty cough on the drive out. It got bad fast.
  5. Little Dude is a puker. When his coughing fits got bad, he’d spit up a bit. On Monday night, right after getting in his pajamas and during his diaper change, he positively vomited everywhere. It was awful. We did a lot of laundry in 3 1/2 days.
  6. We couldn’t get any exercise.
  7. Since it wasn’t our own house, and we expected to be outside a lot, we had very little along to entertain ourselves. We watched waaaaay too much tv.
  8. We hit traffic on the drive down and the drive back. It was irritating.
  9. The travel plaza with Starbucks on the way home – the one from which I had planned to get a pumpkin latte – was closed.

We just don’t have good lucks with vacations in odd numbered years. We have a bad track record; it’s odd. We’ve decided that we’ll just take little camping trips in the odd years and save up to take bigger vacations in even numbered years.

Buenas noches, mis amigos.

Phun in Philly

S had business in Philly from Sunday through Tuesday, so Little Dude and I decided to tag along and play. The hotel was already paid for by the client, so why not, right?

Little Dude and I took the train from Lancaster to Philly on Monday morning. It was his first train ride and he loved it. He spent the first ten minutes saying, “All aboard!” which, sadly, no one said.

All aboard!
All aboard!

Upon arriving in Philly, the next task was to hail a cab. I would have walked the mile from the train station to the hotel, but it was raining and I wasn’t game for that with a kid and luggage. Instead, I spent forever watching full cab after full cab drive by. I got so frustrated. (Oh – this was the first time I had to hail a cab myself. And I determined that I lack that asshole-ish gene that one needs to survive in a large city.) Finally a driver saw me and made the most awkward, illegal 3-point turn to pick up me and my precious cargo. He stuck the BOB stroller in the trunk, which wouldn’t shut. I threw my luggage in the backseat. Then I tried to get in the cab. Little Dude freaked out. It was odd; I’m not sure why this freaked him out. I didn’t have the time to fuss around though, and I just stuck myself – with my child now velcroed to my chest – in the backseat and told the driver where to go.

We met up with S at the hotel but were soon on our own. We napped first, which was friggin’ awesome. I love sleeping, so a 2 hour nap in a bed that I don’t have to make is fabulous.

After our nap, I asked the concierge what would be good to do with a kiddo in tow. Unfortunately it was nearly 4pm, so most of the kid-friendly activities were closed or closing soon. He directed us to Franklin Square, which was a gold mine! It was a fantastic little playground. Little Dude had a blast there. We spent nearly two hours there! We faced his fear of carousels, and he conquered it like a champ. This was our third attempt at riding one, and after some “all done!” chanting, he let me strap him a weird cat figure that was catching a fish (wtf?). Of course he loved it!

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We roamed about the city a bit longer. (As a side note, I must say that if my BOB stroller were ever stolen, I would weep. WEEP! My life would completely change. I’d be immobile.) Finally I decided to look for some food. I tried to find Hip City Vedge, but my GPS wasn’t working quite right, and I didn’t like roaming around a strange city, alone, in the dark, with my child. I quit and went back to the hotel. Thankfully I was prepared and had food for Little Dude. But this was a major city! I needed my vegan fix!

I called Hip City Vedge and discovered that I was in their delivery zone. Perfecto! I ordered a ton of food. A ton. Here’s the thing: when I find a restaurant in which I can order ANYTHING, I order waaaaaay too much. And I eat it. All. More on that later.

I ordered the Udon Salad with chinese black bean dressing, sprouts, arugula, carrots, cabbage, daikon, peanuts & spicy glazed chick’n, sweet potato fries (ahhhh-mazing), kale lemonade (super refreshing) and a chocolate peanut butter cupcake (not pictured). I inhaled all of it. It was fabulous.

 

Cool delivery guy, but he didn't have a square to process my Mastercard!
Cool delivery guy, but he didn’t have a Square to process my Mastercard!
Udon salad. Oh my yum!
Udon salad. Oh my yum!
Best sweet potato fries ever, even if they were really salty.
Best sweet potato fries ever, even if they were really salty.
Delicious kale lemonade that I had to share with Little Dude.
Delicious kale lemonade that I had to share with Little Dude.
I love vegans.
I love vegans.

The excitement of the day took it’s toll on the littlest traveler.

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I missed going to the nice hotel gym (said sincerely, not sarcastically) on Tuesday morning and slept in. Little Dude and I wandered the city again looking for breakfast. It was hard to come by, for some reason. We ended up at a Cosi and found ourselves some vegan steel cut oats. I got one topped with their granola and pistachios, and I ordered one topped with strawberries for Little Dude. Mmmmmm.

Again, we walked around for a while. We stopped at Franklin Square again, and Little Dude played his heart out. Seriously, what a great little playground!

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After working up an appetite, we headed over to Blackbird Pizza, an all vegan pizza shop! I ordered a slice of seitan pepperoni for Little Dude and a slice of balboa (roasted cherry tomato, seitan pepperoni, arugula, pumpkin seed pesto, mozzarella style daiya cheese,
chili flakes, olive oi) for me. To be honest, I hate daiya cheese. I hate all vegan cheeses. I gave up on the idea a while ago. BUT, with all of the other flavorful ingredients, it took a backseat and it worked well. I enjoyed my slice so much that I ordered a second slice to take along on the road with me. We also split a chocolate raspberry brownie, but no one really needs to know about that. Oh – I also got a bowl of tempeh chili and a big ole chocolate chip coconut cookie to take home. Nothing made it home; I ate the chili and pizza for dinner in the car, and the 3 of us split the cookie.

I love food.

We spent the following 2 hours waiting in the hotel lobby for S to finish up work. Thank God I have a fantastic child. Between his two toy cars and the Endless Alphabet game on the iPad, he remained entertained the entire time. He did spent some time practicing piano, too. After all, what else was there to do?

2013-09-17 15.29.20We had a nice day and a half in Philly. I’m not convinced I could live there, but visiting it now and again is always fun. I have to say for the millionth time that I am forever thankful to my former teammates who bought me my stroller. Without that awesome contraption, I would not enjoy walking as much as I do with my little munchkin.

G’night!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charlottesville, Part Deux

(Please forgive the lackluster blog entry.  Due to some “technical issues”, I can’t insert photos or links. Freaking technology.)

So after the activities of Friday and Saturday, I wanted to sleep in on Sunday. Instead, I hauled my butt out of bed and hit up the Rivanna Trail with a Charlottesville trail running group. The Rivanna Trail circles the city, and is mostly singletrack. Woohoo! My goal was to run the whole thing (18 miles), but after trading emails with some of the group members, I decided not to. I decided a 7 mile jaunt with people who knew the area was a smarter decision. I was right; it was great. The people were great and the section of the trail was awesome. I can’t wait to go back and do more.

After that run, I joined up with S and Little Dude to repeat my UVA 5K route so they could see it. We took our time and lollygagged around the campus, jogging with some walk breaks. (I cannot believe spell-check didn’t underline “lollygagged”! Amazing.) We finished off the run with a stop at Starbucks. I tried their new orange spiced ice coffee. I had them add soy milk and a bit of sweetener. I was wholly unimpressed. There was no hint – not even an essence – of orange, save the sorry looking orange slice floating over the ice. Sorry, Starbucks. You know I love you, but this was a fail. Yuck.

After we cleaned up, we hit the road and sought out brunch. We found a gem of a place called Beer Run. It was awesome! Seriously good stuff. They had a good draft beer list, but also sold singles, six packs and cases. (Yes, we loaded up on souvenirs.) The food was scrumptious. Little Dude and I did all but lick our plate of mixed berry and chocolate chip topped French toast. S got an omelet which he described as delicious. Overall, we were highly impressed.  And fat.

What is the best thing to do when you are brunch-fat? Wine tasting, of course!  We didn’t want to do too many, so we set our sights on our primo pick first: Blenheim Vineyards. It isn’t obvious, but it is owned by Dave Matthews. Yes, that Dave Matthews.

The winery was beautiful but not over the top. The views were gorgeous. The wines were surprisingly good. (I say this because I have had very little Virginia wine, and didn’t know what to expect.)  The best part, though, was that they had a play area for the grape juice drinkers! I had never seen a winery set up with one before. Of course we each ordered a glass and sat for a while, savoring the wine, the surroundings, and the quiet, content child.

Next we went a few hundred yards down the road to Trump Vineyards. No, not that Trump. His son. It turns out he bought a bankrupt winery and brought in some big shot French winemaker. The wines were good, but not great.  It was pretty, but felt snooty. The guy doing the tastings was corny. But we did the tasting outside, so Little Dude could run around and play with the dogs.

We finished up the day with dinner downtown at a restaurant called Himalayan Fusion. It is a Tibetan/Nepalese/Indian restaurant. It didn’t just call my name, it yelled it. I wasn’t sure how toddler friendly it might be, but we decided to give it a whirl. We got a cucumber-red onion-mango salad to start. It was light, refreshing and delicious. LD liked it too. He also liked the tortilla-like chips and the mystery dipping sauces, plus the naan. How can you go wrong with naan? (Remember when I said I am not a great vegan? Vegan fail.)  S got some sort of red meat (bleh) in a green sauce. I paid little attention to what he got because I was so in love with mine. I got a cauliflower and potato curry. It was awesome. And spiiiiiiicy. Wowza. I was on fire. I was very fearful that I would pay for that later. But I didn’t. Whew.

We headed home on Monday, in the pouring rain. We stopped at Trader Joe’s on our way out. Bliss! Not only did I stock up on food, but we got to check out their (cheap) beer and wine. (When I get to go to Trader Joe’s, I go to ones in Pennsylvania. We have severely antiquated liquor laws prohibiting the sale of beer and wine just about everywhere. Things are changing. Slowly.) We loaded up the car and hit the road in the downpour.

We wanted to take Skyline Drive home since we missed taking it on Friday, but fog in the mountains was so dense, we opted out of it. Instead we took a scenic route to get to the intestate. It was nice. We hit up Cave Ridge Winery off of I-81 for a tasting and a scenic picnic lunch, and then drove straight through to home sweet home.

Charlottesville was great! It is totally my kind of town. It ranks up there with Portland, Oregon as places I would live.  I didn’t get to do everything I wanted, but that’s okay. My friend and I are heading back there in August for a girls-only running/relaxation trip. I can’t wait!

Charlottesville: The mini-vacation

We decided to take our family vacation to Charlottesville, VA. People keep asking us whether we were visiting family or friends. Our response was always “neither”. We didn’t know anyone there, but knew a few people who had been there. All of those people seemed to like it. After doing some research, it looked like it had everything we wanted: breweries, wineries, great playgrounds with water parks, hiking and running trails, restaurants with vegan food, and a walkable downtown area.

We wanted to take Skyline Drive down on Friday, but we got started to late and had to skip it. We got into town with enough time to check into our hotel, get changed, and drive to the vineyard where we were going to run a 5K. (I’ll have to blog about our 5K escapades sometime.)

The Wine to Vine 5K was seriously the best 5K I’ve ever run. There were just shy of 350 runners. The course started on the grounds of the vineyard and then was an out-and-back on an unpaved country road. There were some rolling hills which made it a somewhat slower course than what we tend to see in these here parts. I knew that this area of VA produced some good runners, so I assumed it would be a fast race. It wasn’t. I was very surprised. I finished 48th out of 348, 18th woman overall, and 5th out of 81 in my age group. Wow! S was the only person in the race pushing a stroller. We were really surprised by that one. There are always several strollers in the races here at home! People were all amazed that he was really going to push Little Dude for 3.1 miles. He got lots of applause as he approached the finish line.

A view of Barren Ridge vineyard
A view of Barren Ridge vineyard
Relaxing with wine (me) and cheese and crackers (him) after the race
Relaxing with wine (me) and cheese and crackers (him) after the race

We hung out after the race and tasted some wines. (Our entry fee got us the race, a really nice technical t-shirt, a wine tasting and a souvenir wineglass.) We got a bottle of their 2011 Harmony, which is a blend of Chardonnay, Traminette, Vidal Blanc and Viognier. We aren’t usually fans of white wines, but the heat of the evening begged for it. We sat on a blanket, sipped some wine, and watched Little Dude pick flowers and dance to the live jazz music.

On Saturday we walked a mile to the amazing Charlottesville City Market. (I had planned to get out for a long trail run, but was so exhausted that I felt like I could cry the night before. I decided to sleep in until 7am – which was totally sleeping in when compared to the idea of getting up at 4:30am!) Once we got there, I forgot that I wanted to be running. The market was ahhhhh-mazing. The produce was gorgeous. The smells of the breads and ethnic dishes made me so hungry. I became so envious of the people of Charlottesville! Wow. That market crushed the ones we have here. (Sorry, H-burg.)

I can still taste this coffee
I can still taste this coffee

We sampled some delicious foods, including a really, really good vegan burger from No Bull Burgers (though the vegan one isn’t yet on their website). I had the best cup of coffee ever from Mudhouse Coffee. It was so, so good and smooooooooth; I was absolutely blown away. They brewed it using a set-up I had never seen before, and it seems to have made all the difference. We rounded out our visit to the Market with some actual breakfast – a Filipino noodle bowl for S and a vegan, veggie-filled Bolivian/Andean fried pastry for me. Adios, diet!

Brewing coffee by the cup
Brewing coffee by the cup

After our jaunt through the City Market and some wandering through the Downtown Mall, we made our way back to the hotel. The boys took some time to relax while I went out for a run. I missed my long distance run that morning, but was okay with it since we had such a lovely morning. I decided to tour the University of Virginia during my run. Since we actually stayed at a hotel on the UVA campus, I barely had to go anywhere to see the beautiful campus. To spice up my run, I stopped every half mile and did 20 reps of one of these exercises: push-ups, squats, walking lunges (R+L=1), bench step-ups, stair jumps and chair dips. I could have pushed harder, but I was still pretty tired from the day before. Plus, it was hot. And I was on vacation.

After my run, we decided to take Little Dude to a local park with a splash pad so he could burn off some energy. On the way there, though, he fell asleep in the stroller. We decided it would be a good time to hit up the South Street Brewery since we were only a few blocks away. I hadn’t heard much about it, so I had no expectations. The beer was just okay. The food was good, but the portions (at least mine) were small. I had a fried chickpea salad which was visually lovely and tasted great, but it barely put a dent in my appetite.

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We spent a good chunk of time at the park for Little Dude and then made our way to the Starr Hill Brewery in nearby Crozet. (At this point we hopped in the car; we weren’t walking 20+ miles with a stroller!) I was really excited to check it out, but was a bit disappointed. There were eleventy billion flies buzzing around, and they drove us all nuts. The beers were just okay. The one I liked the best actually wasn’t part of the tasting. They had debuted a rauchbier. I hate rauchbier. They smell and taste like meat. Yuck. When the guy poured it and told me what it was, I told him I knew I wouldn’t like it. He was very nice and instead gave me a pour of their Love, which I thought was pretty good.

When we got back from the brewery, we decided to hit up Revolutionary Soup for dinner after discovering it was rated as the best restaurant for vegans (2011). I was so excited. I mean, really excited. We walked around the block from our hotel and found it. It was like angels sang. And then we realized it was closed. What? I checked the door and saw a sign that said they were closing at 3pm on Saturdays during the summer. I literally shed some tears. No kidding – I shut down. I told S I didn’t care where we ate. I got all mopey and nearly tripped on my pouty bottom lip. We ended up at Boylan Heights for burgers. Burgers. Whatever. I was bored by the thought. But I was surprised! Their vegan burger was incredible. I was thoroughly impressed, and forgot my revolutionary sadness.

So S just pointed out that I am writing too much. We’ll call this “Part 1” and I will write more tomorrow. Hasta manana.