Monday, November 23, 2015

Shortest Trip to Maine Ever

Being in New England in the fall, we couldn't help but to hop up to our old stomping grounds in Maine for a quick colorful weekend, so after spending the day in Lexington and Concord we picked Jason up after work and headed north. We spent our first night in Portsmouth, NH where we eagerly hoofed-it to our favorite pizza place, Flat Bread. Yum.

The following morning we set out towards Acadia National Park. We stopped at our favorite treat store to stock up on treats and Jason and Isaac grabbed lobstah rolls for lunch. We stopped in the ridiculously picturesque harbor of Rockport where we fell in love with maritime Maine all over again. We spent the afternoon in Camden where we visited favorite old haunts from our camper van trip. After a harbor walk, bookstores and toy stores, we bundled up and hiked to the top of Mount Battie where we enjoyed stupendous views of picturesque Penobscot Bay below. We got off the trail just in time for dinner so we went to Pig + Poet where we enjoyed a delicious meal. With full bellies we hit the road in the dark to Ellsworth (the only place I could find a pet-friendly hotel in the Acadia area on short notice) where we stayed in a crappy, smokey hotel for the evening. Blech.

The following morning we hit the road early so we could squeeze in as much of Acadia as possible. After a quick stop at Morning Glory Bakery (we spent many hours here doing schoolwork on our camper van trip) to grab a snack and lunch to go, we headed into the park. First we hiked to the top of Mount Champlain for some glorious, chilly views and then we ate lunch overlooking the ocean on pink granite rocks so typical of this coast. With full bellies we hustled up the Beehive, a steep trail with the occasional ladder and metal railings hammered into the cliff walls to keep tourists from falling. We had a funny encounter with an older couple from Minnesota decked out with hiking boots and walking sticks. Upon seeing Aaron's choice of footwear (always flip flops) they declared in disbelief, "oh look, he's doing it in flip flops....." and then as they scanned up his body ".....and his hat over his eyes." Next we stopped at the Jordan House for the obligatory popover and tea. Finally we knocked off the Bubbles hike before calling it a day. We drove back to Camden where we enjoyed another delicious dinner at Pig + Poet before checking into a lovely bed and breakfast. The fall of 2011 we spent camping in Maine had been a rainy, wet one and often times I found myself longing to stay in one of the many quaint, dry B&B's (did I mention dry?) that line the streets of Camden. I finally got my dream. This was the first real B&B the boys had stayed in so they really enjoyed the breakfast experience the following morning.

After two whirlwind days in Maine it was time to drive back to Boston to fly home. We retraced our steps with a little side trip out to visit some friends' waterfront land and arrived back in Boston just in time for dinner. After dinner Jason and I snuck out for a quick date at the über-hip bar, 'Drink'. We are not cocktail or hard alcohol people but we had heard that this place was quite a unique experience. There is no sign from the street. There is no menu. The bartender asks what kind of flavors you are in the mood for and then they whip up a drink. Jason and I sat down and shared one artistically-crafted drink. After a strange conversation with the bartender about the plastic surgery conference that was in town, he gave us our one drink for free (telling us we were basically locals and qualified for the locals deal) and then we were on our way. I got the impression that he didn't often have two people come in and order one drink to share and then head on their way. The following morning we had just enough time to walk over to Beacon Hill one last time before we had to catch our flight back home.

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Saturday, November 21, 2015


We spent our next day at the Museum of Science. We watched a couple of lectures including one on the latest on our newest human ancestor, homo naledi. Found in the depths of a remarkably inaccessible cave, with tiny, narrow passages in South Africa. After ruling out that the remains had been drug there by animals or washed in by water, it was determined that the remains had been deposited there by other homo naledi. It was super fascinating to hear how this primitive species may have buried their dead. Next, we watched the always epic lighting and electricity show with its giant van de Graph generators. We spent the last couple of hours in the Pixar exhibit where we completely exhausted ourselves with technology overload. At the end of the day we stumbled out into the fresh air with serious museum-mush brain. Luckily a walk in the brisk fall air along the esplanade on the Charles River revived us before we squished ourselves into the rush-hour crowd on the T.

The next day we started the day without a specific plan. We walked through the streets of Boston poking our noses into whatever caught our curiosity. We checked out the historic Customs House before wandering past the old State Building. We followed the Freedom Trail past many historical sites to the Boston Commons. We cut through the park so we could explore the streets of Beacon Hill where we found another delicious bakery, Tatte. Eventually we ended up at the Charles T station where Isaac had the brilliant idea that we should head to Harvard Square to check out the bookstore and then on to the MIT Museum.

Our last morning in Boston was spent at the aquarium. We started our visit petting manta rays and sharks. Next we watched the adorable penguins honk and waddle about. We were eager to find our favorite, Myrtle the Turtle so we headed up the ramp that spirals around in the gigantic, cylindrical tank. We found her, in all of her ginormous glory, up at the top of the ramp. She was as big and beautiful as we had remembered her. Our final stop brought us to the ever-playful seals and sea lions. After enjoying lunch on the pier in the sunshine we headed back to the room to meet Jason so we could all drive north to his office and then have dinner at friends' house where we spent a lovely evening outside with great food and company.

The following morning we checked out of our funky hotel and dropped Jason off at his office. In Google Maps I selected windy back roads to bring us to Lexington and Concord to visit the Minute Man Historical Park. We toured through the house where John Hancock and Samuel Adams were hiding when Paul Revere rode through on his famous midnight ride to warn them that the Red Coats were coming. We wandered across the green where the "shot heard round the world" started the American Revolution. After a delicious lunch in a quaint New England inn we headed to Battle Road where we walked through gorgeous fall colors along the path of the dueling armies that fateful first day of the revolution.

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Huzzah! Boston Tea Party!

While Jason spent the week in the office, the boys and I kept busy wandering the streets and exploring the streets of Boston. We were staying in South Boston so we established a much-loved routine of walking the chihuahua in the morning to our favorite bakery, Flour, where we grabbed a delicious baked good and chai tea along with a sandwich to-go for later in the day. I am not ashamed to say that sometimes we found ourselves there two or three times a day.

Our first day started out lazily with much indecision. After much debate over Flour baked goods we finally settled on a visit to the Boston Children's Museum where we have many cherished memories from when the kids were much, much littler. Aaron bee-lined to the ball room where we had spent many happy hours. While Aaron rounded up balls and deposited them on the many ramps around the room, Isaac balls...with lots of itty, bitty people running around. Happily, he was very careful and conscientious and no injuries occurred.

Next, we decided to head across the bridge into the city. As we crossed the bridge, we got sidetracked when I noticed that the Boston Tea Party Museum was not-at-all busy so we bought tickets and slipped into the next tour. The experience at this museum was really fun. It was an interactive play with engaging actors. We got to take part in the meeting that led up to the famous Boston Tea Party with plenty of booing and hissing and foot stamping and huzzahing. Isaac even got a speaking part. He stood up and delivered his lines with authority and conviction. Huzzah! Then we toured through the ship and learned about the historical events that led up to the revolution. At the end we were whipped up into a righteous fervor and, in an act of rebellion, threw tea overboard, over and over again. Huzzah! We finished our time on the boat in the Tea Room where we played era-appropriate games. The first was a game that had been scratched into the bottom of the only remaining original tea crate. The second, was the Game of Goose, which we first thought was really dumb but turned out to be hilarious as we were sent back to start over and over again.

After Jason returned from work we went to a Mexican restaurant where we ordered a special that allowed one of us to compete in a piñata-hitting contest while wearing, drunk goggles. Hands-down, our Viking son Isaac was the man for this job. When the time came he stepped up with two late-middle-aged men who each made (forgive me for saying this) somewhat pathetic attempts at hitting the piñata. Viking Isaac donned the drunk goggles and picked up his piñata beating stick. After some calculation he swung one mighty blow that almost knocked the piñata's head clean off its body. Sadly this did not count so he didn't win the grand prize of a free entree. With the piñata hanging by a mere thread one of the other contestants managed to connect and took that honor, though with much guilt. He kept saying that Isaac should get it. Isaac walked away with, what every proud mother of a teenage boy would want, a hat that says Tequila 1800 on one side with a skull on the other....maybe it's a warning beacon of what happens if you drink too much?

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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Honk! Boston

After two long months at home, it was time to leave and head to the East Coast. Last time we went to Atlanta and Boston, we drove. The camper van. Which still feels crazy to think about. This time we opted for good-old aero-plane travel. We first made a quick stop to Atlanta where a visit was long overdue. It was so wonderful to catch up with family and give them all big hugs.

Next was Boston. Let's just start by saying, we have had more graceful entrances into this city. The story begins back in Jason's office when he was making the rental car reservation. For some reason, the rational-thinking part of his brain was on siesta when he decided that he would accept a free upgrade to a sport utility vehicle. I questioned this quirky decision at the time, to which he replied that he thought that being up higher and having a bigger wind shield might be nice when we drive to Maine later in the the trip. I guess this was a way to feel more camper-van-like through our old camping territories in Maine where we have so many cherished memories. I can understand.

Flash-foward, we arrive in Boston tired and dazed and walk up to rental car. I. Am. Horrified. It is the biggest vehicle I have ever seen. A Nissan Gargantuan Goliath or something. I complain. How are you going to park? Drive? Stay in your lane? See normal-sized cars during lane changes? Jason is a little taken aback as he was originally picturing a Pathfinder or Explorer or something. Oh well. We're stuck with it. On the bright side, I was actually thinking about cancelling our hotel reservations in Maine and just sleeping in back of the cavernous beast. So we climb in and sit in line to check out of the garage. We get to the gate, have a funny conversation with the attendant (we'll call him Jerome), turn down their insurance and start to drive away. Did I mention that we turned down the insurance? We make it two feet, literally, and come to an abrupt and violent stop. My head hits the side window and we all look at each other in shock. What just happened? I thought we had driven over the huge spikes and all the tires had just popped. Jason looks back at Jerome and says, "What just happened?" Jerome throws his hands to his cheeks and shrieks, "What did you do, man?" Nobody knows. Jerome starts bouncing around outside the vehicle with fretting, clenched hands up to his mouth as he looks for damage. Jason puts the beast into reverse and backs up revealing the source of our abrupt and violent stop...a big metal block that, until very recently, housed the now-bleeding hydraulics that used to lift and lower the gate. Nobody ever saw it. The beast car was too huge for any of us to have any inkling that the metal block existed. On the bright side of things, this "incident" allowed us to change to a more normal-sized car so we didn't hit some unseen larger object at a higher speed. I can't tell you how thankful I am that we didn't have to drive that thing around Boston.


We arrived just in time to catch the last day of our favorite street festival, ever, of all time, HonkFest. HonkFest is an indescribably amazing visual, totally immersive, street-activist-band (for lack of a better word) extravaganza. We accidentally discovered it six-ish years ago when we were staying in Somerville. We were exploring the city by getting off at every T station on the way into Boston. When we popped out into Harvard Square we entered a surreal crowd of crazily dressed, colorful people and music everywhere. Click and Clack of Car Talk fame were up on stage nearby. We happily melted into the Alice-in-Wonderland crowd and wandered through throngs of people dressed in everything from tutus to striped stockings to zombie costumes.... We randomly stumbled upon street band after street band playing the most amazing music ever. We'd managed to make it one other time in the past, so needless to say, we were delighted to be back for our third HonkFest.

Before the parade started, we watched Cate Great, a professional street performer, who juggled knives on top of a wobbly platform surrounded by knives followed by the most amazing hand-stand/maybe-you-could-call-it-a-one-armed-sideways-hand-stand (you'll just have to look at the photos) on the aforementioned wobbly platform surrounded by knives. Afterwards the streets sort-of cleared for the parade and we watched the crazily-dressed bands march through the street, along with activists for everything from the metric system to calls for lowering black incarceration to improving education to advocates for crazy bikes. After the parade we snagged the boys a slice of pizza from one of their favorites, Pinnochio's, and went to find a band to watch. After some searching we finally found our favorite undead band from Austin, TX. We squeezed in as close as we dared and then just soaked up the undead music. This kind of surreal scene is a photographers visual dreamland. I couldn't stop shooting so be prepared for way too many photos.

Click here for way too many photos.

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Saturday, October 31, 2015

Late Summer Months at Home

We spent two lovely months at home. We fell into a nice routine of all things wonderful about summer: biking around town, going to the weekly farmers market, slack-lining in the park, hiking. Isaac and his fellow homeschool friends started the school year with a bang with a two week Shakespeare intensive led by amazing Shakespeare directors where they delivered a stellar performance of As You Like It. Set in the 1940's West, they performed in an amazing outdoor setting at a local barn. Isaac also started a computer programming course at the local university. I love that homeschooling allows for such cool experiences like attending college courses so young. We also organized a homeschool computer programming class so our friends can learn to program too. Both boys are busy with piano and guitar lessons and soon we start our homeschool physics course as well as writing. We are super thankful for all of the talented people who teach our kids and friends.

Both of our boys celebrated birthdays while we were home. It was the first time in four years that we have been home to celebrate their birthday with friends. Aaron had a Dungeons and Dragons party where uproarious adventures were had. On Isaac's birthday we took a sunset hike with friends. We celebrated with candles and chocolat petits pots de crème on top as colors faded across the sky. Our trip down the trail, in the dark, without flashlights, was both exciting and memorable.

We also managed to squeeze in a couple of camping trips. Our first camping trip turned out more exciting than anticipated. When we checked into the campground we saw a sign saying that a momma bear with her two cubs had been in the campground that day. We shrugged our shoulders and went for a hike. This is Montana after all. When we got back a couple of campsites had weird gadgetry and had been police-taped off. Hmmmmm. After dinner, Jason and I were walking to the garbage can to dispose of our garbage so there were no yummy smells coming from the camper van, when we ran into the camp host. She informed us the bear and her cubs had been there for the past two weeks and the momma bear had put her head into someone's tent that morning. Not good. She said that if we saw someone shooting the bear, not to worry, Fish and Wildlife was in the campground trying to trap her and the bullets would be rubber. Gulp. And we should be aware of our surroundings. At this point the camp host is totally oblivious to the crashing noises that are coming from the wooded hillside above us. I was like, "Ummmmm, you mean like crashing noises? Like the ones up above us?" The camp host whirled around in surprise and started blasting her air horn to scare the bear. Meanwhile, we had left Isaac at the picnic table in the campsite. I had warned him about the bear and told him to get into the camper van if he heard any noises. He rolled his eyes and continued playing his guitar. Jason and I hurried back to the campsite and told Isaac he should get into the camper van because the bear was just above us. Again, he rolls his eyes. No, seriously. The. Bear. Is. Right. Above. Us. Really? As we start to climb into the van, with thoughts of leaving in our brain, the Fish and Wildlife guy shows up so we talked to him for a while. He said the bear was really sweet and had a good disposition. No, he didn't think the bear would eat us if we stayed the night. If we saw him shooting at her, it would only be to try to move her back down to where he had the traps set up. Feeling reassured that we probably wouldn't be eaten, we stayed the night. I can't say I slept very well though.

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