Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Little trip to NYC

On Friday I picked up my daughter and her friend "D" from school early, hopped in into the minivan and headed North on I-95.  There was an exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art I'd been wanting to see and Kat and D are both artsy kind of girls so I thought I'd let them tag along.

My husband has been traveling every week again since March.  The upside of traveling is that he has travel points.  He cashed some in for a room at the Renaissance Hotel, Times Square, New York.  Ooh-la-la!

Things went well enough until my car GPS told me to leave the New Jersey Turnpike and take 278 to Brooklyn.  I was a little suspicious but I haven't driven into NYC in over 15 years so I trusted the GPS over my memory.  Big Mistake.

View Larger Map

My car directed me to an empty lot someplace in Brooklyn.  So, we pulled out the trusty iPhone and used the maps app.  Except- we tried 3 or 4 times to find the turn that would lead us to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel which would in turn lead us to Manhattan.  Did I mention that it was after 11 pm?  Eventually we did manage to make it to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel and over to Manhattan and then we began trying to navigate to the hotel.

We drove past the Freedom Tower, also known as One World Trace Center or 1 WTC and the girls took pictures on iPhones through the sun roof.  And then we took one more wrong turn and ended up in the Lincoln Tunnel. UGH!  That takes you back to New Jersey!  But once there I knew where I was.  My grandparents lived in Bergen County.

glimpse of 1 WTC through the sun roof!

So we turned around, went *back* across the Tunnel and back into the city.  But from there I knew to take that road that runs along the river, 9 is it?  North.  And had the girls re-route us on the map and it was an easy shoot up to cross road and then to 7th and then the hotel.  We checked in at 1 AM.

The Renaissance is so cool!

Our view:

view of Times Square, photo credit to Kathleen Yates
photo credit: Kathleen Yates
Door Handle, Renaissance Hotel, Times Square, Renaissance Hotel Times Square New York, cool design elements
door handle in the bathroom in the lobby
sink in the bathroom in the lobby
The Hotel was decorated in a cool, modern but organic artsy style. The girls loved it.

Euphoria quickly wore off and we crashed in ultra comfy beds.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Flat Stanley - bit of a vent


I just got homework from my cousin- Are you familiar with Flat Stanley? Apparently there is a book, and in it a bulletin board flattens a child named Stanley. The upside of being ‘flat’ is that he gets sent to visit relatives in California.

So today we received an envelope from a teacher in Massachusetts. It seems she teaches my cousin’s daughter's second grade class (got all that?) and I’m not sure if my cousin thought she ought to send the envelope to me or my daughter because the envelope was labeled “Kateline” ummm really? That is neither my name nor any of my kids’s names, but I know they were trying to send it to me because that is my cousin’s daughter in the photo. In the envelope is a laminated “Flat Stanley” with my cousin’s daughter’s name on the back (she dots her “i” with a heart. how cute is that?)-

-and a letter from the teacher: “Thank you so much for welcoming one of our flat travelers to your home for further adventures. Flat Stanley has travelled lightly. We hope that during his visit you will be able to record your and his activities in a journal format of your choosing. Feel free to hand-write or type entries telling us about your city, what Stanley saw or did and where he went while he was in your care. We welcome photos, postcards, brochures, souvenirs etc to display with Stanley when he arrives back at school. However there is no need to “go all out” and make a lot of work for yourself; feel free to keep it simple.”

Are you kidding me?

And mind you- this is from a relative I haven’t spoken to in years. Once a year we exchange Christmas cards- I get a card from her with a photo of her kids. I at least send out the required “my kid is better than your kid” Christmas letter full of all our accolades gathered throughout the year. (sarcasm people sarcasm)

I am flabbergasted. I would never in a million years send a letter like this out before at least checking with the intended recipient to see if it was okay- if the timing was alright- and I’d spell their damn name right. Oh- and I’d never pick this relative because as I recall, I wrote letters and she never wrote back. Maybe that is why she picked me, I used to write letters. But I’d have to be an absolute creaton to let this little kid down. SO we will go ALL OUT and send back the best “Flat Stanley” the second grade in Eastham has ever seen.

Flat Stanley In Williamsburg VA

sending a CD with Fife & Drum Core music, a map, a packet of postcards, and Virginia Peanuts. Hope there aren't any peanut allergies... for that matter I hope my cousin isn't allergic to peanuts! If she was I wouldn't know!

 (And if you are a teacher, please for the love of your students and their friends, don't encourage them to mail off homework to other people. I have 3 kids involved in state wide assessment testing called SOLS in this state and the teachers are an uptight tizzy. My husband has pulled apart the back yard and for the last several weeks we have spent every spare minute out there. We had soccer tryouts, a soccer game, 2 ballet performances to help practice for the 'big recital" I DO NOT NEED A GUILT TRIP FROM A 7 YEAR OLD I'VE SEEN ONCE IN 7 YEARS.  Keep Flat Stanley at home!)

Friday, May 18, 2012

colored pencil sketch

pencil sketch, artist's image, please use with permission. pencil sketch, Kingsmill Marina, May 2012 got out to sketch at the beginning of the month - Kingsmill Marina

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

why I would pay $100 for cookies

yes - I did just pay $100 for a dozen cookies, and a bottle of vermont maple syrup, and a signed card from Chelsea Marshall.

I know some of you might think that is dumb or crazy or something only rich people do.

Let me tell you a story.

Once, in the 1970's there was a beautiful woman named Mary.  She was 24 years old and lived in a summer house that she rented from her parents on Cape Cod.  She lived there with her 4 year old daughter, her 2 1/2 year old son and her not yet 1 year old daughter.  Her husband was a pilot in the Air Force and he was doing his "hardship" tour in Korea.

Mary decided that when her husband came home for his 6 month R&R that they were going to go skiing. I don't remember if they went to NH or to VT.  To pay for this outlandish trip Mary began to make macrame plant hangings.  All fall Mary tied hemp with beads and created her macrame plant hangings.  Mary says a lot of people laughed at her at the time.  But when her husband made it home, she did indeed have enough money saved up to go skiing.

I was the 4 year old.

That is the first ski trip I remember. (I've associated skiing with family/ family with skiing ever since)

And I learned a valuable lesson that I strive to teach my kids.  Nothing is impossible.  You can make anything happen with determination.  People might shake their heads, and they might laugh, and they might tell you you can't.  But you can.  I guess this is sort of a late mother's day post.  Do what you love, love what you do.  Live with passion.  My mom has lived one heck of a life- the point is "she lived."  With passion.  Go mom.  Go Chelsea.

Chelsea Marshall is a member of the US Ski team.  She has been for 8 years.  What many of us don't know, or forget, is that these athletes have to raise the funds required to train and travel and compete.  I talked a little about Chelsea last week.  And you can read a lot about her on her blog.

My goodie box just arrived:

goodies from Chelsea, Chelsea Marshall, US Skier, will send you a goodie box when you send a donation towards her expenses 2012-2013 ski season

cookies & syrup, Chelsea Marshall, US Skier, will send you a goodie box when you send a donation towards her expenses 2012-2013 ski season

cookie & coffee break

 And wow - these are really- REALLY- good cookies!

I encourage you to stop over at Chelsea's Cookies and cheer Chelsea on.  And if you are so inclined, make a donation.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day

We started early, and moved 5 or 6 wheel barrows full of top soil. {Huge backyard erosion project going on this spring at my house}

after adding top soil!


Tamping Down Dirt
tamping down the top soil
And then traveled an hour East for a soccer game.  We won and Tiger took a great shot on goal - keeper saved it but I am always pleased when Tiger shoots.  The oldest made us burgers and I was back outside trying to plant milkweed and winecups.  And then the girls baked a cake.

K poured all the batter into an 8 inch round pan, so it overflowed (!) so she tried to save what she could in another pan.  MLyons wanted to start over but it was getting late so I wouldn't give permission.  Surprisingly it was still really good, although very rich!

MLyons, with a chocolate cake iced with homemade buttercream icing

Reminds me of my own baking attempts growing up.  My brother and sister and I went through a phase while we were in Germany where we baked a bunch.  Once we made a chocolate cake, or was it brownies? from scratch- and somehow forgot to put in the egg.  We remembered after the cake had been baking for sometime and so it was already firming up, so we punched holes into the cake and stirred up the eggs and poured them over the top. (!)  When we pulled it out we had a chocolate cake with a fried egg on top!  Not to be discouraged we simply covered the fried egg with chocolate chips or something and served it to our parents anyway.  I got a piece without egg on it so I actually thought that we'd gotten away with it.  Years later it came up in conversation and my mother told me that she'd gotten a piece of cake with probably an entire egg fried on top.  Bless her she ate it at the time and never said a word!

my amazing children

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Ski Season already? Chelsea's Cookies

photo borrowed from
Last year my husband's company (DataXstream) helped support two members of the US Ski team.  It was a blast to follow them and in doing so I ended up following a few other girls as well.  One of them was Chelsea Marshall.   Chelsea is easy to follow because she blogs regularly.  She faced what sounded to me like a really big injury last season and finished up the season in physical therapy but she has fought her way back and is ready to train again.

And so she faces the challenges of money.  Chelsea posted the particulars on the blog but she has taken an active and creative approach to her fundraising.  She likes to bake.  She will send you cookies if you donate.

I am in awe of all of these women.  They are living lives that require incredible courage, discipline, strength, determination and heart.  They keep an exhausting schedule of training, traveling and competing all because they love to ski and you probably have no idea who they are.  I was thrilled to watch the women ski at Beaver Creek in December last season.  After the race I rode a bus down from the slope to the parking lot and three members of the ski team were on the bus.  They were all in pink team jackets with skis in their hands.  I had no idea what their names were and I was sad.  Because I'm not an outgoing person, I didn't ask them their names (shame on me I know). A dad on the bus asked them to autograph his grade school daughter's cow bell and they were so pleased to be asked.  It occurred to me then how lonely it must get during the season.  Do I feel sorry for them?  No and I'm not asking you to either.  I am just sharing the little glimpse, the tip of the ice berg I've happened to see, of what it might mean to live as a professional athlete.

Like I stated before, I am in awe of these women.  I want to surround my daughters and sons with women like this.  I want my kids to know that they too can be strong and beautiful and fall down and get hurt and then get back up again.  And when life is getting too crazy, a batch of good cookies is just the thing.

So if you are of the mind to help out a skier, a good one, with her season please click here.

Friday, May 11, 2012

landscaping, turtle eggs and the Virginia Living Museum

The Virginia Living Museum is in Newport News Virginia and we've been members for years.  I love the museum, fish tanks, nature trails, and butterfly rooms are my kids' favorites.  I often go and promise myself that one day all the little people will be in school and I can come sit and sketch... and the oldest has even gone on a week long camp with the museum during summer.

But this past few weeks we've had the pleasure of seeing yet another side of the museum.  We have had some yard work done- involving grading a fairly large section of our backyard that backs up to watershed that is protected by the EPA.  (No worries, all the yard work was approved by the county prior to any activity and yes, the papers are all on file.  So all you watch dogs, go ahead and call and they'll tell you, we are legal.)  We are putting in ground cover and so on for erosion control and I thought it would be a good idea to use native VA plants instead of accidentally putting in something that was aggressive and threw off the all that nature.  So I called the Virginia Living Museum and was put in contact with the horticulture curator Bruce Peachy.  Mr. Peachy has been extremely kind and generous with his time, we've had several phone conversations and he helped me pick out plants and even offered to help me purchase some.  We are using winecups and virginia columbine.

In the meantime:

My yard's been looking a bit like this:

backyard choas

and we've been having visitors:

Snapping Turtle


 This Snapper found our fill dirt and decided to lay eggs! So I called the Virginia Living Museum again and spoke to someone in the Herpetology department. He said there is a brief, 24-48 hour period, during which you can move turtle eggs without damage to the eggs. So K, my 14 yr old, gently moved them all to a new nest. You need to replicate the original as much as possible, so she moved some clay and attempted to keep them at a similar depth. And then the raccoons found them.

And the next day we saw another turtle (or maybe the same one? I am not sure.) on another pile of dirt.  This time the top soil.


She's harder to see, I was on the deck.
And so K moved these eggs as well.  Over 40 of them!



This time we tried to keep the raccoons out.  The Virginia Living Museum's Herpetologist said that if the openings were over 1 inch by 1 inch the baby turtles could crawl through.

Online it says we have 60-90 days to wait for baby turtles.  It has been two, so far the raccoons have been foiled.  They are smart little buggers though.