Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Fall Turns to Winter

Can't believe it is already holiday season!! This fall went by in a nanosecond!! It seems like just yesterday that the Occupy Wall Streeters were camping out and drumming up a storm in Zuccotti Park across from our apartment, and now its just a quiet concrete rectangle with holiday trees and an abnormal amount of police protection. . .

I started a new job in September at the NYC iSchool in Soho. Smaller than my old school, with more personal attention for the students, more creative scheduling of classes, and more technology in the classroom. So far, so good, but I had many more students and more new lessons to prepare, therefore, lots of work!! Matt's company has been keeping him busy too, but he has "no comment" on any business matters at this time! :)

Trevor too has been feeling the pinch. In 7th grade, he added two more teachers and classes to his schedule and is dealing with more homework than last year at M.A.T. He was on the varsity soccer team and is playing JV basketball now.

William is enjoying his new 7th grade homeroom and his advanced math class. He is also learning a lot of Spanish, so we are hoping to get to a nice Spanish-speaking country in the next year or two -- Argentina, anyone? He is still doing tennis lessons once a week, and he had lots of homework last year, so this year is just more of the same in that regard. He did manage to start his own blog --

Both boys are doing a Saturday basketball clinic, have been doing a "Math Circle" at NYU and just started Junior League Team Tennis up in the Bronx on Saturdays too. So our Saturdays are packed, but Matt and I discovered the most awesome Arthur Avenue restaurant so we enjoy a good meal with Yamini while the boys play tennis.

Yamini has some fun stuff going on this year too. Her new favorite after-school activity is fabric and textile arts, she is doing a very creative classical and modern dance class on Saturdays, and she is now a Brownie Girl Scout!! So yes, we ARE selling cookies - e-mail me if you want some Samoas or Thin Mints!!

Had fun on Thanksgiving weekend celebrating Pop Pop Leonard's 70th with family and we are looking forward to getting away with Matt's parents to San Diego for Christmas and New Year's! Legoland, here we come. . .

Friday, August 5, 2011

Summer in Bucks County

Ah, the last day of a month in Pennsylvania! I should be cleaning up and putting labels in Yamini's camp clothes, but instead I am sitting on the porch because it is a beautiful (not too hot) day, and I am just happy to have a porch on which to sit!! Thought I should update our blog with a little of what we do out here in Bucks County. . .

On the weekdays, the kids have fun at camp - Trevor and Yamini at the most awesome Camp Briarwood, and William at the Doylestown Tennis Club. Once everyone gets home we like to take a swim, have a nice dinner, read, watch some TV -- basically the house is all about relaxation and fun!! As for me, I am a bit of a stay-at-home mom during the day -- food shopping, cooking, laundry, exercise, cleaning house -- though I do manage to do some lesson planning and catch up on my "to do" list. On the weekends, we try to just enjoy being out of the city by getting outside a lot and making good use of our barbeque grill!
We swim, go for walks in local park
s (lots of 'em) and do some fun activities in the area. July 4th weekend is great because there is a great symphony concert with fireworks at Tinicum Park and then an Old-Fashioned 4th of July Celebration at Fonthill, the old Henry Mercer estate in Doylestown. They have everything from sack races to watermelon eating contests. Our favorite is the "cake walk" where they have a circle with 20 numbered spots. 20 people walk around, a bit like musical chairs without the missing place, and when the music stops, they pick one number from a bowl and the
winner gets to pick a cake from a big donation table! The cakes include delicious home-made treats and disgusting-looking supermarket made objects, but it is fun to imagine which one you would pick if you win. (Of course, we never win!!)
On regular weekends, we love to have friends and family over for a swim and to make some of our favorite meals with food from our favorite local places - Haring Brothers Butchers, or None Such Farms for meat, Carroll's Seafood Market for fish & clams, and Penn Vermont Farms for PEACHES and other fruits. We finish it all off with a drive to Owowcow Creamery for the best locally made ice cream.

As for restaurants, our favorites are Luberto's for brick oven and the best (and least expensive) home-style Italian food and El Mariachi in Plumsteadville, PA for yummy homestyle Mexican.
This summer, Yamini and I found a local potluck farm dinner to attend where everyone brought a dish (we made colorful carrot salad) and then we got a tour of the farm.

There's often a good CARNIVAL going on to support one of the local fire stations and we hit at least two of those every summer, so we are honorary "carnies". On one weekend, we take a drive into Philly to hang out with some friends there, and maybe catch a baseball game there or in Trenton (Yankees Triple-A Thunder).

For the past couple years, I've taken the kids to see Philadelphia Freedoms tennis at Villanova University (met the Bryan Bros. on "twin night" and got Billie Jean King's autograph). This year, I took the kids to a Hollywood Classic Movie night (Kids are free!!) at the County Theater in Doylestown for "Rear Window". Basically, if we didn't already live in the greatest city on earth (go NYC!), it would be nice to live here, so we really enjoy the time we have "in the country".

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Last Portugal Post

Since we were all staying up late in Portugal, I got a bit behind on the blogging. . . Here's some highlights from the last few days of the trip.
Took a really cool drive to "the end of the world" or at least to what Europeans used to believe was the end - the city of Sagres, where Portuguese King Henry set up his School of Navigation. All the major Portuguese explorers and even Columbus spent some time sailing around those cliffs. Today, it is a hot spot for surfers and we had a snack at this cute surf cafe owned by a nice French woman.

Drove to the mountain town of Monchique for a nice dinner with some good local ham and
chicken piri piri (yum), but the drive wasn't really worth it as we ended up getting lost high up on curvy mountain roads for two hours on the way home. Not the best night
of the trip (or of the last year . . )!!!!

Finally got a partially sunny morning on our last day in the Algarve, so William and Matt played tennis while Trevor, Yamini, and I took a walk on the beach collecting shells. The beach is really cool because of the high cliffs you pass through to get down there. The Atlantic Ocean wasn't even that cold, but we didn't have time for a swim since we were checking out of the hotel.

Our last stop in Portugal was the city of Evora, which has a beautiful medieval walled center. We stayed right outside the city in a hotel that used to be an old convent - still has a gorgeous chapel and all the old architecture was beautifully preserved. On Easter, the hotel had a great activity for kids. The chef took us all outside to plant trees on the expansive property, then back to the banquet kitchen to make pizzas an
d chocolate mousse. YUM!
The other highlight in Evora was seeing the Chapel of Bones, which yes, was literally lined with human bones to remind us all of our mortality. Would have been really creepy in there if it wasn't such a tourist attraction, so it was just plain cool, not too scary for the kids. Our dinner the last night was at the lovely restaurant Fiahlo where we had more great local wine and food.

The last morning we were up at dawn (for a change) to drive back to the Lisbon airport and head home! A great trip.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Rain, Rain, Rain

Not rain all day, but here and there, keeping temperatures cool and making the hotel beach out of the question. We are making the best of it though!

On Wednesday, we hung out at the indoor hotel pool which is big and roomy and has lots of families, so you don’t have to worry about your kids being too loud, splashing, etc. like at most other fancy hotel pools. After swimming, we needed to work on that DS Charger situation, so the concierge told us about a nearby shopping mall.

The mall was Fun! Lots of nice Euro stores - like a kids’ Zara (got Yamini some cute clothes) and an awesome food court -- everything from junky Burger King, Pizza Hut and KFC to crepes, salads, yogurt, etc. Matt and I had yummy Portuguese coffee. We did find the DS charger in the video game store, so the boys were back in business later that night! Our favorite store was Continente, just like Target, and we got some fun snacks there for the car and hotel.

For dinner, we drove to the small town of Paderne, where I read about a restaurant in a wine store, Veneza.

It was really beautiful and the Portuguese food we ordered (grilled prawns, lamb stew, pepper steak) was all excellent. The best part was that our server picked a reasonable bottle of wine for us (17 Euros) and it was so delicious. Because Matt was driving, I got to drink 2/3 of it myself!!

On Thursday, we drove 40 minutes in the direction of Spain to the town of Tavira, an old fishing village. There is a little island - Ilha de Tavira - with ferry service, so we decided to go there. The island is really a giant sandbar on the Atlantic with dunes and beaches. When we got to the island we learned that it was in the middle of an International Sports Festival, so there were hundreds and hundreds of college-age kids from Spain and a few other countries doing every type of sport you can imagine. Lots of them were drinking beer, but mainly they all looked healthy, friendly and in great shape as they danced, surfed, played futbol, volleyball, etc. After a ferry ride back to town, we walked around a little -- cute Portuguese style buildings, an old Roman Bridge.

At night, the kids wanted to order room service (chicken nuggets for all) and stay in the room and watch a movie, so Matt and I asked the concierge for the best restaurant within 5 minutes of the hotel to avoid eating a hotel dinner ourselves. He gave us a good recommendation, “Retiro Do Isca” which was a little empty when we arrived at 7:30, but soon filled up with happy people. We had some more vinho verde, fish soup, clams and shrimp and a platter full of lamb chops and roasted potatoes!

Today, Will and Matt’s tennis game was cancelled for weather conditions, so we are about to hit the indoor pool once again!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

From Lisbon to the Algarve

In the afternoon on Tuesday, we went back to the airport to pick up our rental car (an awesome Renault SUV kinda thing) and took a two hour drive south to the Algarve. Matt forgot to get a ticket when we entered the roadway, so we had to pay the maximum price at the toll when we got off -- 56 Euros instead of 20 -- good lesson for the kids!

We got to the Sheraton, which seems to be a nice place for all kinds of European families on holiday. We couldn’t get upgraded to a duplex, so they gave us two rooms instead - very nice. Checked out the property with two pools and a crazy cliff-side beach on the Atlantic Ocean -- need an elevator to get down there. Pictures to come. . .

For dinner went to the town of Albufeira, which is like the Cote D’Azur -- mixed with the Jersey shore. Had a delicious seafood dinner at a lovely beachside, hilltop restaurant but paid way too much for the grilled fish because they charge you by the weight, and it is like $30 a pound! (Another lesson for the kids!)

Woke up to rain this morning, but after another buffet breakfast, we are hitting the indoor pool and then plan on taking a drive to town - can't seem to find a way to recharge the boys' DS game players and William is concerned about falling behind Trevor in some type of Pokemon battle.

Warm, Sunny, and Bankrupt!

Yes folks, we are in Portugal, and while the country is indeed broke, it is not very warm or sunny yet - but at least it's been warmer than NYC when we left. Here's a wrap-up of our first few days:

Saturday/Sunday --Our flight from Newark was delayed 4hours, the first two due to bad weather, then they load us on the plane and take us off again because there’s no pilot (!!) and some guy had to drive in from Connecticut in the rain. Made the most of our $60 in vouchers for the food court while we waited! Everyone slept a bit on the plane.
Long lines at the airport for immigration and taxis. The Sheraton Hotel in Lisbon was pretty nice, and for the first time, the kids had their own room connected to ours. We all took naps for two hours then headed out to walk around and find dinner.

We took the metro (a boring subway with a few lines) to the Alfama, a hilly neighborhood of sailors and little restaurants with Fado Music. There was a beautiful Church up the hill with a Palm Sunday service going on. We walked further uphill to a restaurant near the Castelo de Sao Jorge, Restô do Chapitô. Had an outdoor terrace with views of city and the river. We sat in the no-smoking bar and had T-Bone steak, grilled fish and squid. Great mojitos and caipirhinas for the adults!
Came back to hotel neighborhood and walked around looking for dessert. Found a place that had all kinds of pastries and brought them back to the
hotel lobby lounge before we all went to bed around 11pm.

Monday -- The hotel breakfast was a very good buffet. Could never offer same selection of foods in USA because people would pig out. Took a 35 minute train ride to town of Sintra on the Lisbon coast.
In Sintra, we took a very scary bus ride up a curvy mountain road to Pena Palace. The 19th century palace is a great example of why monarchs were overthrown in favor of more responsible government. It was a converted monastery in a crazy mix of architectural styles with copious amounts of furniture, paintings and knick-knacks. Built by a German prince who married the Queen of Portugal. The last king who lived there was thrown out in a revolution.

Next stop was a walk down the hill to the Moorish Castle, which was a 12th century Middle Ages church and buildings. It was built up by Muslim invaders and then re-claimed by the Portuguese.
You can climb up on the ramparts and walk around and up to the towers. Vertigo inducing for sure, but fabulous views! We walked a long ways down to the historic touristy town for some popcorn, then back to train station for some Pizza Hut pan pizza and the train back to Lisbon.

Tried a Portuguese restaurant recommended on Chowhound for dinner. Yummy garlic shrimp, more grilled fish and a seafood and white bean cassoulet. Matt and I polished off a bottle of vinho verde.

Tuesday -- After breakfast we choose between the museum in Lisbon everyone said to see and the Monastery everyone said to see - didn’t have time for both. We picked the Monastery because it was near another museum - The Museum of Coaches - that sounded fun. Huge line to see the Cloisters of the Monastery, so we just went into the beautiful church. Cool thing about the church is that a poet, the “Shakespeare of Portugal,” and Vasco da Gama are buried there. Vasco da Gama was the first European to find an all water route to India by going around Africa. This led to the Portuguese skipping over the old land trade routes through the Middle East, saving them lots of money. It also led to the beginning of Portuguese colonies in India and other parts of Asia, so da Gama was a HUGE hero of the Age of Exploration. (See, got my Global History lesson in!) The coach museum was really cool too. Saw the carriages that all these royals used to ride in, including one that belong to Philip II of Spain, the King who built the Spanish Armada. Very cool.

Monday, February 21, 2011

MOMA Family Festival

Cleaning up my computer . . seeing what applications I use a lot.

Thinking I can still use Google Picasa to share photos AND update this blog.

Here's some pictures from last week's Museum of Modern Art Family Festival.
Fun times after dark with
MOMA just open to family members. Smartly avoided most of the bad food there this year and had dinner beforehand at Billy's Burger Bar. Looked at some art, made some art, ate cotton candy, and hung out on the dance floor.

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