Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Christmas Vacation

December 23rd was the last day of school for LPMHS, and as is tradition, we walked down from the school (grades 6 & 7 & 8, the HS still has classes) to see a movie at the Palace Theatre for free...


It's a great time, and a cold walk...the 23rd began well below zero, but the kids all had a fun time on the 3/4 mile walk down to the movie...


Main Street was pretty quiet...except for us...


We saw "Despereaux", which was eye-candy-tastic without being very good, but again, the kids had fun with each other and with their teachers...


We came back and had a nice lunch before an afternoon of skating and sledding on the hill and oval just outside the LPMHS...the center window on the 3rd floor (and the one to the left of it) is my classroom...the oval covered with 6th graders is the one that speed-skaters used in both the 1932 and 1980 Olympics...the white framework just past my building is the 1980 rick where the miracle on ice happened...yup, I work in a cool place...


We drove down to NYC to see my family for Christmas after school ended and got in late that night...the next day we went to see the Big Apple Circus...it was a blast!!!


After the BAC, we came home to enjoy the night before Christmas with family...Ben and Brad played a cool Charlie Brown Christmas game that LaLa gave Ben...


We worked together to build a gingerbread house...


Astonishingly, it worked out pretty well, I think that the addition of Brad's boyfriend Lucio might have made the difference this year...


The Christmas Tree was beautiful, hung and decorated with care (and plentiful micro-management as well from what I hear)...


Maggie was exhausted by all of the people in her house...she's used to about 22 hours of sleep each day, and we were cramping her style a bit...


We decorated the table a bit for the Christmas supper that was planned for the next day, and the gingerbread house held a prominent position...


Ben loves reading with his Anti-Sarah...


The tree had a respectable pile of presents underneath it, which was added to by Santa later that night...


Gail and Ben read "The Night Before Christmas" with the assembled group...I love it, and get all mushy while mumbling the words under my breath...


The next morning, we opened presents at the crack of 9:15, when Brad and Sarah arrived...we were happy to wait until the family was together, and Ben is old enough to learn some patience (certainly more than I had at 6)...

In the picture above, Fuz is holding some of his coolest presents...emergency socks and underwear...just add water...honestly, he tested the underwear...they poof out to be a full-sized pair of boxers, albeit wet ones...


Ben's Great-Grandmother (almost 99 years old) came for the supper and enjoyed some time with Ben...he picked out the owl in her lap when we visited the Syracuse Zoo, and was showing off an ornament that he made in school...


She loved his tie...yellow labradors with antlers...he likes to dress up for family get-togethers...not one of my genetic gifts to him, but grandma loves it...I shaved and wore dress pants (which is more than I do for almost anyone on Earth...I love my Grandma!)...


They had a great time talking together before and after the supper...


The main course for the Christmas supper was a massive tenderloin that was expertly wrapped in bacon by Gail (TMI warning: this is coincidentally a long time wish of mine in general, and also makes up the majority of my funeral directives)...


Brad and Ben both got Cat-a-pults for Christmas, and spent some time before and after supper flinging tiny cats around the apartment with these handheld launchers...


One of my favorite gifts came from my dear sister, and is a pair of mugs with a picture of a brain and the legend, "i love you more than zombies love brains"...she's just swell!


Ben got a bunch of lego from Santa, and has been working his way through them like it was his job ever since...this was a Mars Mission Vehicle, that was really cool once assembled...

Muz and D and Ben headed out to Connecticut the day after Christmas and Gail and I remained for a few days to enjoy the city and some fancy restaurants and sleeping in and reading and such...it was a delight, although we did miss Ben...


On Sunday (12/28), I headed down to McSorley's Old Ale House, an ancient pub that's been serving jaded New Yorkers tiny beers sold in pairs since 1854...it's a fun place, which is a good thing, because I got there before the people I was meeting arrived, and had to drink 4 of the beers (2 light, 2 dark...I'm an equal opportunity drinker) before they arrived...


They heat the place with a coal stove in the middle of the room, and keep the menu as simple as the beers (light or dark, only their beer, nothing else but cans of soda, just try to order a tartini or sea-urchin and 3-fruit chutney tartlet in here)...


I was meeting some friends from Zombie Squad, specifically the newly formed New York chapter of Zombie Squad, and along with Derek and Melissa, a couple of new faces came along to add to our numbers...now if we can just convince them all to come to the winter camping trip in February...


That night, after an awesome supper with Gail at a spectacular steak place, we came back to the apartment to help make cookies for my sister Sarah's birthday party the following evening...she had the brilliant plan of having a cookie-decorating party, which turned out to be all kinds of fun...


Cynthia was the mistress of dough-rolling and cookie cutting...the rest of us mostly danced and drank and carried hot things to and fro...there were lots of tiny cookies cut in the beginning of the evening and lots of ginormous cookies cut towards the end of the evening...I'm not judging, simply reporting...


The party itself was a blast, with about 20 people coming to the apartment to help Sarah celebrate her 50th birthday (...really 38th...), a good time was had by all...above you can see Sarah and her girlfriend Wendy...


Gail and I holding the cookie of LOVE...


Once we got started, it was serious business for hours...


Sarah lived the part of her cookies...here you can see her assimilating the crabiness necessary to decorate a crab cookie...she's honestly like the Marlon Brando of cookie-decorating...


There were dozens (hundreds?) of clever and funny and pretty cookies made that night...


Gail made the clever and intricately scribed "Happy Birthday" heart, and I made the zombie gingerbread man...everyone brought something unique to the party, I brought a disturbed quiet and awkward glances...(sorry Sarah)...it was a really fun time for everyone...


The morning after the party, Gail and I headed out to CT to join Muz and D and Ben, and partake of Ben's favorite dining experience in the world...FUJI...a hibachi restaurant where they cook the food in front of you, set things on fire, launch food and booze into peoples' mouths, and offer strange Japanese soda served with glass marbles in it...we had a great time...

It has been a great vacation, and (not but, and) we're ready to head home tomorrow to fetch the hounds from the kennel and rejoin our lives in Lake Clear, already in progress...

Happy New Year everyone!!!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Early Morning on a snowy day

We all got up early this morning and had a nice chunk of family time before I had to leave for work (at 6:30)...we made coffee (and herbal tea for Ben) and started a fire in the upstairs fireplace, and sat listening to Gail read a cool Ben-book that we're all enjoying...


Gail and Ben and Moe (the rat) on the couch...


When I joined the couch-crew, Cedar also decided to pile on...he is getting more and more cuddly the older that he gets...and he was still a bit wet and cold from the new-fallen snow outside (we got about 4" overnight)...

It was a really nice morning, and it was tough to hit the road when it was time for work...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Mid-December

We're deep in the middle of December, and the weather is yo-yo-ing...warm and cold, wet and dry...the house is feeling festive, thanks to Gail...Penny continues to grow into a lovely choco-lab...Ben is excited about heading down to NYC later in the month...



Ben likes watching the fire in our upstairs fireplace...

Yesterday was the Lake Clear School Holiday Program, with shows at 10am and 1pm (I went to the 10am show, and Gail went to both shows)...



The little school (K-3) only has about 45 kids, so they could all fit up on the risers for the group songs at the end...



Ben's class did a couple of great songs...


He even got to introduce one of them, along with his friends Brennan and David...


The building-principal, Mr. Dora, sang a song with the 2nd graders...


Although I tried to keep an open mind, I'm something of a traditionalist when it comes to Elementary School Christmas shows, and the "Elfis" show didn't entirely work for me, despite the flawless performance and cuteness of the entire 3rd grade...


The group numbers at the end were wonderful, seeing all of the kids in the school sing some holiday classics...and poke each other...and wave at parents...I almost injured myself with my smiling...


video

Here is a video of the Lake Clear Elementary School students singing, "Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer".

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thanksgiving in Montreal

We headed to Montreal on Wednesday for a couple of days...we started up by driving to the Olympic Park, and went to the Biodome first...


The Biodome is in the shadow of the Olympic Tower...it's a beautiful spot...the Biodome has 4 environments highlighted and explained with wonderful exhibits...


The tropical forest was our favorite...lots of cool beasties and summertime weather...


Gail and Ben getting to know a school of piranhas...


This picture was tough to get because of the dark (and no flash allowed), but it was an anaconda in a tank full of fish...every time I've seen anacondas in zoos they're sleeping in a ball in the corner...this guy was hunting for food, and swimming all over the tank...at this point, it was checking out Ben...


Ben loved the caimans in this exhibit...


On our way out of the exhibit, this roseate spoonbill hopped up on the railing and walked along with us for a bit...


After the Biodome, I programmed my Garmin to find a restaurant that we had read about as having superb native Quebecois food in one of the neighborhoods near the Olympic park...I never would have taken a chance on trying to find it on my own (with Ben in tow), but the Garmin makes it easy to navigate any city as though I live there...we got a great meal in a fun locals' place (I loved the tortiere!)...


Our hotel was at the edge of Chinatown, with a nice view of the Notre Dame Cathedral from our room, and just a short walk to Old Town, our favorite part of any visit to Montreal...we checked in and unpacked, explored Chinatown a bit, and did some shopping before heading back to our room...


Our hotel had a pool, of course, and we swam every day...Ben is taking lessons and is getting better all the time, but he made real gains this week in our swims...he did some swimming with his "noodle", but also did some free-swimming and some underwater practice...


I had to do the swim-around picture with the camera of all of us in the pool...please note the sign behind us that prohibits occupation of the pool by more than 75 people...this in a pool about the size of our living room...


Ben likes swimming...


My camera works underwater, so I have to take pictures like this when I can...seriously, I have to...


Ben is so much more comfortable in the water now, and loves being tossed around and splashing...


After swimming, we had some time before our first dinner (we're into food, so we planned a range of cool dining experiences, and Ben was perfect...ish...well, perfect for a 6 year old)...so we went back up to our room and had some drinks and snacks that we'd picked up at the small market near our hotel while we dried off and talked about the day...


We got enough stuff on our shopping trip in the neighborhood to stock the mini-fridge sufficiently for our whole visit...


We got some great local pate and cheeses...


Ben liked the nuts, and they helped to refuel him after a long day of walking and swimming...


Moe, as always, overdid it with our table wine...


Canadian coke tastes better than American coke because they use real sugar...the bottle also makes me feel as though I'm having a hulk moment...we ate our first dinner in our hotel restaurant...Ben loved his lemon chicken, we had exquisite calamari and crispy spinach...and we all fell in love with lychee...


The next morning we went to the Marche Jean Talon...it's an amazing market that has convinced us to rent a place with a kitchen the next time that we come, so that we can take advantage of the bounty that this place has to offer by cooking some meals for ourselves...this butcher had meat from an incredible array of wild-beasties...it was a great place to visit on our Thanksgiving day, a holiday that we associate closely with family and food...


The seafood place had sealife that Ben had never seen before, but was willing to try...he was great about trying all sorts of new foods during our visit...


The produce was incredible...tons of fresh food the likes of which we never see in upstate NY, and some that seemed impossible, including beautiful tomatoes at the end of November....


And great peppers of all shapes and sizes and colors...


Fresh and local apples in about 30 different varieties were available...


We stopped off during our rounds of the market for some crepes in a place where we could watch the maker produce our food while he told Ben about what/how he was doing it...Ben's crepe had bananas and nutella (a chocolate and hazelnut-butter spread that is yummy!), Gail's had egg and cheese and spinach, mine had apple and pear and caramel...it looks like Ben is planning an attack on Gail's crepe in this picture


There was a honey farmer who had honeys of varying colors from light to dark, and wax and pollen and all sorts of yummies associated with bees...


Another seafood place that we visited had live escargots (which Ben then tried later that night in our super supper choice, a fancy French place) and dozens (or hundreds) of other kinds of seafood displayed, and a friendly guy who told/showed us all of them as we walked around...


Tiny octopi...


Really big octopi...


and even some fish that Ben was a little freaked out by...


Our next stop in the market had the most incredible array of cheeses and meats and such...including 4 kinds of feta...


They also had about 20 different kinds of fancy salt from all over the world, including salt in colors ranging from snow-white to black as night, with Himalayan pink salt somewhere in the middle...

After a fantabulous Italian lunch near the market, we went to the Planetarium, which had a great show on the longest night, which tied in to some mythologies that we've been reading with Ben recently...


After the Planetarium, we went back to the hotel for another refreshing swim...Ben loves to jump and then swim to the edge...nowadays all by himself, although he likes me close by...just in case...


He is basically fearless and willing to try anything that we put in front of him...after swimming and some drinks/snacks, we headed out to one of the top french restaurants in the city and had a full-on fancy-pants meal...Ben tried escargots and salmon and bison and shrimp and scallops...he loved the creme brulee that I had, and went crazy for his personal-sized lemon meringue pie...


The next day we headed into the Old Town to do some exploring...

We went first to the Archeological Museum, which boasts some great interactive technologies, and simply amazing exhibits...they have preserved archeological digs of the ancient city of Montreal, from hundreds of years ago, beneath the museum, and we could wander through them and look at the relics in place...



We moved from there to the Science Center to see an Imax movie (the Wild Ocean) and check out some of their neat and highly interactive exhibits...we also had a bite of lunch at the in-house cafe...please note the name of the place..."Cafe Arsenik"...we got through the lunch fine...


This exhibit let kids explore various ways of measuring/perceiving energy and the whole place drove Ben almost insane with pleasure with the, I-can-touch-it-osity of the exhibits...


On the way back to our hotel after the Science Center, we stopped in to see the inside of the Notre Dame Cathedral...it's beautiful and enormous and ornate and a spectacle, but Ben was perhaps most impressed by the giant clam shell by the door for holding holy water...


The amazing woodwork and lights and gilding were all impressive too, but they weren't a big shell from a bivalve...


Back in the hotel, after a fun Mexican meal, with guacamole made at the table (and awesome ceviche), we had some serious reading time before bed...


Our hotel lobby had some cool bridges and mini-pagodas and koi...


Ben loved the koi...and the koi loved him (at least as much as they loved everyone else)...


We finished off our visit with another exploration of chinatown and a great dim sum lunch, where Ben tried a bit of everything...


We stopped at the duty-free shop at the border to re-supply on some booze and were home by the early afternoon...what a great vacation!

We were able to balance fun and learning and history and great food and swimming in a wonderful city only 2 hours from our home...