Monday, July 30, 2012

Back In Virginia - Round 2

Fortunately, we had an easy drive back to Virginia on Friday, July 6th and were able to hit the ground running as soon as we arrived and unpacked.

Throughout each year, we talk quite a bit about what we want to do when we are back "home" that summer. However, it always seems like when we are actually back in the U.S. and able to do it "all", we forget what we talked about and end up doing everything BUT what we wanted to. This year, right after we arrived in the US, I had the kids make a list of exactly what they wanted to do, where they wanted to go, who they wanted to see, etc. (Thanks to Michael and Sheena for the idea!). The list included activities for the time we would spend in D.C., NY and Miami. The kids were very thorough and, trust me, the list was quite lengthy.  However, it has been a great reference to use as we plan our days and I am happy to report that we have crossed most of the items off of the list. No one will be able to say we didn't do anything or go anywhere on our summer vacation, that is for sure!  After our return from NY, our plan was to stay with Kevin's mom for a few days and then relocate to Jim and Jan's home in Fairfax so we would be close to the kids' friends and the different activities that they wanted to do. 

Kevin had to return to Bangkok for a week so the kids and I dropped him at the airport early Saturday morning and then ran a few errands.  While we were in NY, a fierce storm ripped through the Metropolitan Washington DC area and caused quite a lot of damage with downed trees and power lines. In some areas, power was out for over a week!  For your lesson of the day...the storm was called a "derecho", a long-lived and straight-line windstorm that is associated with a fast-moving band of severe thunderstorms.  A derecho's winds are sustained and usually increase in strength behind the front of the storm system. The winds generally exceed hurricane force and can cause incredible and wide-spread damage. Unlike a hurricane, there is little to no warning that a derecho will hit and there is really nothing that can be done to prepare. While we were in NY, we were watching a golf tournament being played in Bethesda, MD. The tournament start was first delayed for clean up and then access was restricted to players only because of the tree damage and amount of storm debris on the course.  It was very eerie to watch the players on the course with no spectators and to see all of the downed trees on the edges of the fairways.  Several large tree limbs and one tree fell on our property in Fairfax (near - but not on - the house) so I drove over to take a look and meet the tenant and landscaper to discuss having the trees and storm debris removed.  It was shocking to see the huge pile of tree limbs in the front and back yards and we were very fortunate that our damage was limited and able to be quickly cleaned up.  A neighbor a few doors up the street was not so lucky and had a tree fall right across his car. Of course, the storm "vultures" were out in full force and we had quotes ranging from $525 to over $2,500 to complete the EXACT same work. Unbelievable.

After finishing up with the storm damage, we went over to Jim and Jan's to join in their 4th of July festivities.  Jan's two sisters & their children and some other friends & children were there so it was a very chaotic - but lots of fun - party.  Caitlynne kept the younger girls entertained and there were about 4 boys to keep Christopher occupied and happy (and out of my hair).

We lit a few sparklers when the sun went down.
In addition to grilled hamburgers and hot dogs, Jan also served grilled portabello mushroom paninis.  She brushed portabellos and red & yellow peppers with a balsamic vinegar reduction, grilled them, then sliced them into strips and arranged on multi-grain bread spread with goat cheese. The sandwiches were put back on the grill under a weight, warmed through and then served. Delicious!  Christopher really enjoyed them and has requested that she make them again before we leave.  

One evening, Caitlynne, Sydney (Kevin's brother's daughter) and Jan went out for dinner and then downtown to the Kennedy Center to see
The girls enjoyed getting dressed up for a night out and they all loved the show.

I won't go into too much detail as to how we spent our days in Virginia but I will say that we were on the go All. The. Time.  The kids had friends they wanted to see (a lot) & places they wanted to go (many), I had friends to see & some "business" to attend to so it was B.U.S.Y.  And, yes, a fair bit of shopping was done as well.  Kevin returned from Bangkok on Sunday, July 15th and has been working since so the kids and I have spent A LOT of time together.  

One day, the kids and I drove to the Inner Harbor of Baltimore to meet up with good friends of ours from Miami.  They were driving back to Miami after vacationing in the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York so we thought we would spend the afternoon/night with them in Baltimore.  When they made this same "return" drive last year, they stopped in Fairfax for a few days and we were able to visit with them right before we left for Bangkok.  

The kids had a fun reunion...
 We went to the Seaquarium and watched the dolphin show after our tour.
The boys toured the Torsk submarine that was docked in the Harbor.
The kids went boating in the Harbor before dinner.
The "floral" arrangements outside the entrance to our hotel.  Very colorful and attractive!
Early the next morning, our friends continued on their (very long) journey South and the kids and I drove North to Buck's County, PA (just outside of Philadelphia) to visit with my college roommate and her family for the day.  We had a fantastic time - we went to their pool, visited at their home and had a delicious dinner.  As usual, the kids picked up like they had just seen each other yesterday (instead of a year ago!) while the adults were busy making plans for next Summer/Fall - Naval Academy football games and a "5338 Nebraska Avenue"/American University reunion. 

We also had the opportunity to go to a Washington Nationals baseball game one evening. Unfortunately, their "hot" (pitching skills, not looks) pitcher, Steven Strasburg, was not on the mound so that was a little disappointing but we quickly got over it.  The Nationals have had a great season (so far) and it was so much fun to be in the stands that night.  Hey, if the football team can't produce...

My favorite player, Michael Morse #38 (who, by the way, has been slamming in quite a few home runs lately!).
My favorite husband and son.
More photos of #38.  I thought Christopher could study these photos and get some tips on how to position himself in the batter's box.  Yeah, right.
Guess Who?!? Not much else to say about this photo.
Where else but in Washington, DC. would you be able to see Abe and George race around the bases?
Teddy Roosevelt actually won but I didn't get a photo of him!

Two left-over photos from our New York trip... Presenting my parents' cat, Sir Toby!  Such a cutie!
Next stop... Miami!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

New York - The Wrap Up

Well, it took me a little longer to get back with a post but here is the wrap up of our week (June 29th - July 6th) in New York.  This all now seems so very long ago!  It is hard to believe that we will be leaving Virginia and traveling back to Bangkok a week from tomorrow.  Where did the time (seven weeks) go?!?

One afternoon, my mom arranged a small barbecue with family friends that I babysat for many years ago.  It was a lot of fun because now those children are grown up and have children of their own.  While I felt a little old, it was good to see and catch up with them.   Another day, my aunt and uncle drove from New Jersey for a visit.  My uncle, dad and Kevin golfed in the morning and, after they all napped (because golfing is such a tiring sport), we had a nice lunch together.  We are planning to drive across the country next summer and my uncle had a lot of good ideas and suggestions of places for us to visit on our journey.

We also hiked through the Black Creek Forest Preserve in the Town of Esopus, about a 20 minute drive from my parents' home.  

The Black Creek Forest Preserve is a 130-acre woodland tract in the Town of Esopus, a small town on the Hudson River about 75 miles north of Manhattan. The Forest Preserve is a hemlock and hardwood forest and has three marked trails that traverse the land and pass along the banks of the Hudson River.  We combined all three trails (yellow, blue and red) for a three mile hike.  I had run 8 miles that morning and planned to take it slowly so, while Kevin and Caitlynne took right off on the trail, Christopher tagged along with me. 
Right at the beginning of the trail, there is a suspension bridge to cross over Black Creek.  
My son (who must always be in motion) tried to see how fast he could sprint across the bridge and back.
Black Creek.  Isn't it beautiful?
The first part of the hike was literally straight up the mountain.  The path was very uneven and we had to be careful and keep our eyes on the ground so we didn't trip over the many rocks and tree roots on the path.
We reached the top of the mountain and took a little rest on a big rock.
I spotted a blueberry bush near the trail.
We finally reached the Hudson River and enjoyed some beautiful views.  This photo is looking up and across the river to Rhinebeck.
We continued on our way and came across some wonderful stone walls that were in excellent condition.  

After we left the river, the rest of the hike was much easier as it was almost all downhill.  We were back at the suspension bridge in no time at all. 
One of our favorite traditions while in New York is to visit the hot dog truck at least once (or twice) for lunch.  We usually don't eat hot dogs but there is just something about the hot dogs that this man serves that makes eating those chemicals and preservatives worthwhile!     
On our last night in New York, we took my parents to dinner at The Egg's Nest, a very funky little bar and restaurant in High Falls.  
The Egg's Nest is truly an institution in High Falls/Ulster County and I can't remember a time when it wasn't open.  I used to go there with friends during the summers I was home from college or while visiting at other times.  Oh, the memories!  It is kind of neat to be going there now with my own family (although my behavior is MUCH better!). The food is quite good but the true draw of The Egg's Nest is its decor which has been called an "eclectic and colorful"  "funky collection of sixties hippy kitsch" and "looks like something Martha Stewart would do after ingesting a fist full of LSD." Apparently, the owner, Richard does all of the decorating & painting and redecorates quite frequently so as to keep it "interesting". I was a little uncomfortable walking around with my camera and taking photos of the decor while people were trying to enjoy their dinners but I think you can get an idea of what the interior is like from the few shots I did get.

The front entrance gives a little hint as to what the inside is like.
The front door.
On the ceiling. 
More stuff on the ceiling.
The painted wall going up the stairs.
Christopher taking a sip of his raspberry lemonade.
Very tart!
My dinner (Reuben sandwich).
After dinner (take a look at the painted table - it was beautiful!).
That wraps up our visit in New York!  We left New York very early Friday morning, July 6th to return to Virginia.  My brother, Jim, and his wife, Jan, always have a "not to be missed" 4th of July party (although this year it was going to be held on July 7th) and we wanted to get back in time to celebrate.