Monday, July 29, 2013

Hudson River Valley

We went camping!!

Our family loves to camp - especially the kids.  They love sleeping in a tent with us, being able to run amok and get dirty, catching bugs, eating outside.  They love it all.

Luckily we made friends with another family who not only loves to camp too, but also has two tents and a second air mattress.  While we didn't put our camping gear in deep storage, we did leave it all in the garage at Kevin's parents' house in California.  We just don't have the storage space here in New York for our gear but knew we might one day.  Or at least we might want to do some camping in California during the summers.  So while I was home last month I mailed our sleeping bags out to NYC in anticipation of our camping trip this weekend.

We drove up the Hudson River Valley on Friday afternoon - gorgeous - all the way to Fahnestock State Park.

We met up with our friends Mimi and Joel and their two adorable little boys Arlo (6) and Ansel (5).  Awesome names, right?

We set up camp,

we went to the beach,

we made sand castles,

we read,

we went fishing,

we visited the Nature Center,

we caught insects,

and ate and laughed and climbed and drank and slept like logs.

Then on Sunday we woke up to a bit of light rain.  So we quickly broke down camp and learned from the Park Ranger that there was a Buddhist Monastery just down the road that serves a delicious vegetarian lunch at noon.  So off we headed for the unexpected surprise of a tour of a monastery during Sunday morning mass.

Fair enough.

We said goodbye to our friends after lunch at the monastery and headed a little further north to Poughkeepsie, New York, the home of Kevin's alma mater, Vassar College.

As you can see, it is a stunning campus with buildings that date back to the mid-1800s.  It has rolling green hills and even its own golf course.  There were very few people around, being the middle of summer, so we took our time wandering the campus.  The photo of the kids above is standing in front of Kevin's first dormitory.  He even showed the kids where he took Spanish classes, much to their surprise since they don't think he can speak Spanish.

It was so nice to have a weekend out of the city and be able to take such a picturesque drive.  We are so lucky to be able to so easily pick up a car when we need it (Zipcar) and get out and about.  We even passed this on the way home:

Who knew?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Upper West Side Story

Well, we tried to have a lazy week but it never seems to turn out that way.

After recovering from our red-eye we hit the road in search of a new apartment.  I dragged the kids up and down the Upper West Side.  The first day we did it alone, hitting three apartments of greatly varying quality.  We found one we liked in a Brownstone on a sweet, tree-lined street and had Kevin check it out on his way home.  The kids liked that one because it had two TINY bedrooms (in addition to the master bedroom).  Ella thought it would be nice to have her own room.  Holden wasn't so sure.  Anyway, we did submit an application but were turned down because someone else was willing to move in right away (we're hoping for a mid-month lease start).  Sigh.

The next day we broke down and let a broker show us around.  I say broke down because most apartments here are only available through a broker and brokers steal charge 15% of the annual rent (or about a month and half's rent) if you sign a lease through them.  That's thousands of dollars, people.  Amazingly, the first apartment we saw seemed pretty good - not perfect but great location and get this...a huge backyard!  OK, all concrete, but still, you could fit a table and chairs, BBQ, planters... After much drama which included competing brokers fighting over our commission, we're still not sure if we're going to be able to get the apartment.  Sigh.

I don't think I'm cut out for the cut-throat nature of apartment hunting in New York City.

On the brighter side, we had a few visitors this week from California.  New York really is the crossroads of the world.

On Tuesday night Kevin met our good buddy Nate (who was here for business) for cocktails on a roof top in Chelsea.  Luckily, I had caught up with Nate in San Francisco already this month so I stayed home with the kids and indulged my jet lag by going to bed at 8pm.

 And then on Wednesday night our friends Jay and Greta left their three boys with her brother (who they were visiting in NYC) and met up with us at our new favorite hang out, Jacob's Pickles.

It looks like we all just stepped out of a tanning salon.

It's hard to stay homesick for long when you have a steady stream of friends from home coming through the city.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Distance Makes The Heart Grow Fonder

For the last six months I've felt guilty that we didn't feel homesick.  I marveled at how well we all adapted to our sudden change, especially the kids.  I was so surprised at how well the kids transitioned to their new school and never talked much about home or those we left behind.

Then we went back to California.

Seeing all of our friends and family, enjoying the beautiful weather (no humidity!!), hanging out in our old neighborhood...well, it finally set in for all three of us.  We now remember how much we left when we picked up and moved to New York.  And we all felt more and more sad as our two weeks in California went on.

But we still had an amazing trip.  I've filled you in on our first week of bouncing all around the Bay Area to see as many people as we could.  Our second week was a little more tame but just as much fun, up at my mom's house in Twain Harte in the Sierra Foothills.

On the way we made a detour to see my friend Samantha and her son Ethan who was a schoolmate of Ella's in San Mateo.  They have since also moved, up to Elk Grove.  It was so nice to see their new house and have lunch.

The kids on a bug safari

At my mom's the kids were able to finally, totally relax without a schedule.  And at Grandma's house anything goes: she doesn't make the kids clean up after themselves, she feeds them hot chocolate and cookies for breakfast before I wake up, and there are cartoons on constantly.  The kids were in heaven.

When we first arrived she had the kids help her make a dinosaur cake for Holden's birthday.  At one point one of the kids pulled the mixer out of the batter without turning it off and sprayed batter all over the kitchen.  Instead of yelling at the kids (as I would have done), Grandma screamed, "Dinosaur guts everywhere!!", to the howls of laughter from the kids.

I think they did a pretty darn good job.

We spent the next day at nearby Pinecrest Lake for an un-birthday party for Holden.  Mom's good friend Jay came with her grandchildren, Kennedy who is Ella's age, and twins Max and Izak who are almost as old as Holden.  We now have regular summer vacation play dates with them when we're up visiting.

We were also joined by my niece Robin and her family - husband Roger, daughters Starry, Autumn and Heather.

We were there for hours eating, swimming, playing and laughing.  It couldn't have been a better un-birthday party.

The next day we drove out to Murphys to have lunch with my aunt Gretchen and my cousin, her son Chance.  

Chance opened up a whole new world to Holden, teaching him how to play an electric guitar...

...and Xbox.  I don't think Holden ever wanted to leave.

Driving home from Murphys we went through the historic gold mining town of Columbia.  So of course we had to try our luck with the gold pans.

And no visit to Twain Harte is ever complete without a round of Miniature Golf at the same putt-putt course that I played on as a child.  They haven't changed a thing about it in 40 years.

While at Grandma's Holden lost his first tooth!  Finally.  It's been wiggly for weeks and weeks.  
And in true Holden fashion, he insisted the tooth stay downstairs for the night.  He didn't want any fairy rummaging around under his pillow while he slept.  I don't blame him.

We said a sad goodbye to Grandma and headed back down the hill to our old stomping grounds in San Mateo.  We spent the evening with our very good friends from the 'hood, Lori, Angus, Liza and Molly.

With a trapeze in the middle of the living room, it's no wonder it's one of their favorite places on the planet.
 We also got to visit with friends and neighbors Lindsay and Lincoln and meet their newest addition, Julia.
I even got in a beach walk at Half Moon Bay with my good Highlands friend Mary.  A regular for us with Rudy back in the day.  The two of us can talk for hours and never run out of things to say. 
A great, but homesick rendering, visit in the San Mateo Highlands.

We wrapped up our week with some good family time.  One more visit to The Ramp with Dad...

...and cocktails and Sunday Family Dinner Night with the Skaggs in Millbrae.

Although we were so sad to leave California, we were all so happy to see Kevin on Monday and unpack and settle in again.  
Jet lag

The kids are happy to have their toys and books back and haven't mentioned being homesick again since we got back to New York.  It's so inspiring to see how in-the-moment they are.  I wish I could be more like that.  I am still missing California and a little less thrilled to be back to my regular routine of grocery shopping and cleaning and laundry.  

I did in fact leave my heart in San Francisco.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

California Girls

The West Coast portion of our whirlwind vacation started this last week with an ominous landing at SFO on the runway right next to the burned out 777 that crashed the day before we landed.  Luckily, the kids were distracted packing up their carry-ons and didn't notice the wreckage just feet away from us.  I, on the other hand, lost my breath and worried that I might not be able to board another flight after seeing something so horrific. 

Luckily, the rest of our week was completely the opposite - exciting and full of fun and laughter.  I know many of you won't believe that we packed so much into a week, but if you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that the Skaggs seem to be on a different space and time continuum.  We can do more in a weekend than most people do all month long.


Based in Millbrae at Kevin's parents' house, we were able to bop around San Francisco and the Bay Area all week long.

I'm never home until I've had lunch at my favorite lunch spot, The Ramp.  This was my every other week lunch date spot with my Dad, before leaving for New York.  The weather could not have cooperated more and we had a great day with Dad along the water at the Embarcadero and the Ferry Building.

We arrived a little early for dinner at our good friends Nate and Naomi's house in the Presidio, so we checked out the Walt Disney Museum next door to them.  It's a great museum in such a beautiful setting in the Presidio, overlooking Crissy Field and the Bay.

And of course it was great to catch up with our friends and see the most adorable little princess, Sloane.


The kids and I spent most of Tuesday bonding with Rudy, our dog who has been staying behind in Millbrae while we're away.  He's a much happier dog with a big backyard than he would be in an 800 square foot apartment on the 31st floor in New York.  But we all miss him terribly and we had a good love fest out at our old favorite stomping grounds, Mavericks Beach.

That evening we got to meet Francesca's new little sister Daniela, who is a complete doll.  I threatened to take her back to New York with me but Jake fought me for her.


Today I tried to get the kids to do some summertime homework, with mixed results.

Ella multitasked by working on her tan while writing in her journal.
Holden on the other hand wasn't shy about letting me know how he feels about summertime homework.
We all enjoyed the gorgeous weather and cool pool in Millbrae for the morning and took some much needed downtime.

...before heading out again.  We hopped up to Berkeley to meet up with Alyssa and kids, a sort of halfway point between us.  The meeting spot was the Adventure Playground at the Berkeley Marina.  If you've never heard of Adventure Playground, this sign might give you an idea of what you're in for.

It is the only playground I've ever been to where you have to sign a liability waiver before you enter.  As the sign says, when you turn in nails or large wood splinters or other dangerous items, you can exchange them for a hammer or a saw.  The playground is built by the kids, complete with nails protruding out and loose steps about to fall through.  The kids LOVED it.

Here's a video of Holden's first zip line experience.  Take special note of his graceful landing.

We also got to eat a quick lunch at one of my favorite Mexican lunch spots in Berkeley, Tacubaya.

Drinking Horchata

That evening I got to catch up with my good buddies from Book Group over a delicious Italian dinner.  I caught up on the gossip and got some good book recommendations.  I do miss Book Group.


Thursday brought us back to the old 'hood.  Our good friends and former next door neighbors SungSim and Matt, had us over for a delicious lunch.  Their house is probably one of the kids' favorite places in the world.  They love their kids and their house is a giant play space for kids.  It was so nice to see them but I could tell when we were leaving that this stop, more than any so far, made the kids really homesick.  They really miss being able to just wander next door and instantly find playmates.

I had another girls night that evening in San Francisco.  For the last 16 years a group of us that all worked together at a travel agency many years ago have been getting together regularly for pot luck dinners.  In the beginning it was monthly, then as many of us took other jobs our Girls Nights have been more like quarterly.  We've seen each other through marriages, children, divorces, cancer, moves and deaths.  It's a testament that even though many of us aren't in contact with each other in between Girls Nights, we are still going strong on our pot lucks sixteen years later.  I love these gals.

FRIDAY and the weekend:

Friday morning the kids and I met up with a dear old friend Maureen for brunch in the Mission.  We go way back to working together at a home health agency and have stayed close.  It was so great to see her and also to get some great food in one of my favorite parts of the city.

From the city I went straight to Berkeley to drop the kids off with my sister-in-law for the weekend and picked up three of my closest girlfriends for a much needed weekend of female bonding and relaxation in Calistoga.  How did I get so lucky?

We've done a girls weekend away for a couple years in a row now.  It's amazing that it works out at all since Ingrid is coming all the way from Madagascar and me from New York. 
We spent the weekend floating in this natural spring pool, getting mud baths...

 ...relaxing at the Buddha Pond...
...and drinking exotic cocktails.  And of course, endless girl talk.

The kids had a great weekend getting in more cousin time, hitting the movies and eating pizza.  I even got to get in on the action on Sunday afternoon when our cousins Michael and Frances and their kids (who recently visited us in New York), came out to Berkeley for an afternoon of play.

I'll say it again.  How did I get so lucky?