Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Time for a Rain Dance

Many of you have asked about my mom and her house so I thought I'd do a brief post on the Rim Fire that is raging in the Sierras.

In the midst of packing the last several days, I have been closely watching the progress of the enormous fire that is burning California right now.  It is an area that is near and dear to my heart because not only have I camped and hiked at probably dozens of places around there, my mom has called the Sierras, and more specifically a small town called Twain Harte, home for the last 20 years.

She's had her car packed for the last couple days and was on the first level of evacuation notice which is to have a plan and be packed.  She had firefighters come walk her property and ask her where all of her water sources are, should they need them.  They've shut down her town to anyone who isn't a resident and have roadblocks set up to check IDs.  Mom says it's surreal.

The fire is about 5 miles from her house but that isn't as bad as it sounds because in those 5 miles are two deep canyons.  The fire has already consumed a favorite camping spot, Berkeley Tuolomne Family Camp, and I suspect that Camp Mather where we've attended the Strawberry Music Festival for the last 7 years is probably at least heavily damaged, if not destroyed as well.  Luckily, most of the fire (which is larger than the city of Chicago now) is in the wilderness although it is fast approaching what they are calling the 108 corridor, the area along Highway 108 that is dotted with small towns such as Twain Harte.  All of those small towns are filled with houses and cabins.

I just talked to my mom and she and her dog are leaving today, not because she is worried about the fire getting too close but because it's finally getting too hard to breathe.  The air quality is terrible and getting worse as they are starting to set backfires along the ridge behind her house to fight off the wildfire.  So she is safe.  And she has a car filled with photos and paperwork and even Ella's first doll.

It got me to thinking, how hard would it be to pack that car?  To decide what few possessions to take with you?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Pack. Picnic. Play. Repeat.

Just a quick update today because I am deep in packing hell right now.  Didn't I just do this??  The movers come in two days and I'm sure I'll be ready but the time between now and then will be ugly.

Here's how Holden conquers his boredom while I'm packing.

Meanwhile, we were able to get a little fun in this last weekend.  Friday night was the start of a short film festival in Central Park.  Outdoor movies each night with free popcorn, courtesy of our mayor.

The movie was Hook, a take on the Peter Pan story, which kind of touched a nerve with Kevin and me and reminded us to let the kids just be kids and to lower our unattainable expectations of them a bit - something we've been trying to work on a lot lately.

I'd rather not revisit Saturday.  Let's just say it involved IKEA on a Saturday and two bored, hungry, tired kids who had stayed up way past their bedtime the night before.  Enough said.

Our friends (Maeve's family) pulled us away from packing long enough on Sunday to enjoy a beautiful picnic in Central Park.  I told Kevin that I still can't believe we can walk literally one block and end up at one of the world's most beautiful parks.

We even got some good eating in this week.  Holden and I made not one but TWO visits to Barney Greengrass, the Sturgeon King for the world's best New York bagels.  It's kind of a landmark here and you can often find celebrities hiding out in the corner.  And it's just around the corner from our new apartment.

I also made use of a lot of our farm box.

This dish included tomatoes, corn and basil (made into homemade pesto) all from our box.

And this lovely thing took me all of 5 minutes to make.  One pie crust dough from the store and 3 sliced peaches from our farm box.

And here is a last sunset photo from our apartment in the sky.  We'll sure miss this but looking forward to many good times in our new backyard!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Work Before Play

Well, I'm doing my best to keep Holden entertained while single-handedly packing up our entire apartment.  The movers come on Wednesday.

Luckily, Ella is at summer camp this week, all day, every day.  She gets to commute on the subway with Kevin every morning and every evening, which makes her feel so grown-up.  The camp is in the theater district, not far from Kevin's work.  And the great news is, she absolutely loves it.  Seriously, we've never seen her happier or more animated.  I think she's found her calling.  It's a two week camp and the kids are creating their own musical from scratch: writing the script and songs, building the set, making costumes.  We've got a very creative little girl on our hands.

Meanwhile, between packing boxes, Holden and I have had a bit of fun.

We made our ump-teenth visit to the American Museum of Natural History and checked out a special exhibit on frogs.  Holden's been begging to do this for weeks and Ella showed no interest, so a perfect mommy-son activity.

Up close and personal with a Dart Poison Frog

Then on Tuesday I read online about a special pirate cruise on the Husdon.  No-brainer.  A bunch of kids dressed up as pirates on a vintage sailboat with a "Pirate School" on board?  Only in New York City can you find something so awesome on a random Tuesday.

Then some more packing...

I found what I think is the most awesome business idea - Jugglebox.  Instead of tracking down a bunch of cardboard boxes, or worse, paying a couple hundred dollars for new ones, and then having to build and tape them all, then break them all down and recycle them, what about renting hard plastic bins that protect your stuff better and are reused (therefore better for the environment)?  Throw in free delivery and pick-up of the boxes and I'm sold.

Holden and I also worked our shift at our farm box pick-up site.  Every member of the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is requested to work one shift during the season.  Working a shift involves checking in members, putting out the produce and signs and basically helping out, as needed.  Holden thought it was the best thing ever and hasn't stopped talking about "going to work".  He was a hit with the arriving members as the cutest 'checker-inner' they've ever seen.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Playing Hostess with the Mostess

Not that we aren't squeezing every last drop of fun out of this city anyway, but having visitors makes us push ourselves even more to get out and do the very most fun things this city has to offer.  This weekend was no exception.

My very good friend Sara and her family arrived on Thursday after a couple weeks on the beach at Cape Cod visiting her mom.  They arrived on a bus and we headed straight out to picnic in Central Park.  Her boys are just about the same ages as our children, which always works out nicely.  We kept Thursday low-key and stayed close to home, swimming in our pool and eating dinner out on the roof.

Friday we retraced some of our favorite steps in the city:

We walked the High Line,

and visited the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum.
We also walked through Times Square, hit the main library, ate real New York pizza, took subways and walked miles.  Poor Kevin came home on Friday after a tough week at work, ready to hit some cool, outdoor restaurant and have a cocktail, but we were completely pooped out.

After getting a good night's sleep we headed back out on Saturday morning for something new for our family - Governor's Island.  Governor's Island is a small island off the southern tip of Manhattan accessible by a free ferry.  It's a former military base that last year was opened to the public and turned into a recreation area.  It's only open during the summers and only on Saturdays and Sundays.  The ferry ride over was as much part of the adventure for the kids (and us big kids) as the island was itself.

There are no cars there and no businesses.  It's a beautiful place to picnic and rent bikes (or bring your own) and ride around and see the gorgeous view of downtown Manhattan.  There are art installations, a sculpture park and a vintage French carnival with old-time rides and games.

They even had a unique miniature golf course where each hole was created by an artist.  You can't beat the backdrop of the new World Trade Center on the horizon.
We spent the whole day there wandering around the island, eating delicious food and playing fun games. 

We sadly said goodbye to Sara, Doug, Leo and Dexter on Sunday morning (and by sadly I mean BOTH kids cried after they left).  Kevin and I had to quickly come up with an awesome Sunday to distract them from their grief so we left our day's plans completely up to the kids.

And they did not disappoint.

They chose bike riding along the Hudson River at Riverside Park

and baseball in Central Park.  

Not a bad ending to an already perfect weekend.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Never-Ending Summer

Man, am I missing the year-round school system about now.  The kids would have been back in school for two weeks already back home...

With no summer camp this week, I did my best to keep us all entertained.  This week's theme somehow became eating and reading our way through Manhattan.

The kids and I hit some yummy bakeries and teahouses:

 A shop that sells only rice crispy treats (in dozens of flavors)

 Tea and strawberry shortcake

An Alice in Wonderland themed teahouse

And even a grilled cheese truck!

I snuck a couple zucchinis into the kids' diet this week with this delicious Chocolate Zuccini Bread (using organic zucchinis from our farm box)

After a week of indulgences, the kids had their teeth cleaned.

We came upon this children's reading area in Bryant Park.  There was a big bin of children's books and the kids read for a solid hour here.

They also did a lot of cafe reading.  We hit the library three times this week!  They're both getting close to the 10 books required this summer to make it onto the Wall of Fame at school and get lunch with the principal.

Yesterday was a bit rainy so we finally made it to the Swedish Marionette Theatre in Central Park.  It has been a landmark in the park for decades and this month's play is my all-time favorite, Pippi Longstocking.

The puppeteers came out afterwards and demonstrated to the audience how marionettes work.  It's a lot harder than it looks.

The rain stopped while we were inside so we enjoyed a nice picnic in the Shakespeare Garden after the play.  Holden kept proclaiming it the most beautiful garden he has ever seen (there were a TON of butterflies).

And today we used some free passes we had to the Children's Museum of the Arts.  It was our second visit but they are constantly changing up what arts and crafts activities they have available for the kids, so it was like it was new all over again.  We spent a good three to four hours there.

 Holden loved the weaving.

Ella drawing a self-portrait.

The highlight of the day was an interactive exhibit they had going on where they tape bubble wrap to the kids' feet and let them step in paint and then dance around.  They never wanted to leave.

How cool is that??

The things that made me smile this week came from notes we found from the kids:

This is what Holden thinks of Kevin's summertime homework list.

It never hurts to ask.