Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Very Good Friday

Last Friday, Good Friday, we decide to go to the park to get out into the delightfully fresh, spring air. We went to a park near our home that we don't often visit. I forget how much fun this park is... cherry trees lining the entrance, two fun playgrounds, lots of open space for dogs to run, a hiking trail... and all situated beside a big beautiful lake.

I was amazed by how much we discovered in the few hours we were there. The hiking trail has little wooden signs attached to a few trees along the way. It shows the shape of the leaf and a few other clues to indicate the type of tree such as a pinecone or a flower. When you flip the sign up, you find your answer. The kids had fun running along the trail finding all the tree signs.

We stopped to gaze at a swampy little inlet and discovered mama and baby turtles sunning themselves on logs protruding from the water. Around the bend we found a tiny little island through the trees. The kids declared it their territory and staked a flag. The island was so small and cute it reminded me of the pictures I drew as a kid. In all of them I always included a big lake with a bridge leading to an island in the center. Sometimes there would be a gazebo or a tree on the little island - a special getaway spot to read books or dream.

Down the trail further, we found a group of kids standing on an embankment swinging from the longest "tarzan" vine I'd ever seen! I swear the thing was at least 30 feet long and was so perfectly situated beside the embankment. I would have guessed it was built specifically for that purpose! We spend the next 20 minutes watching the kids laughing and shrieking from the pure pleasure of swinging in large lazy circles on the long vine. (See video below!)

On our way out, my daughter peeked in the dumpster by the parking lot. What did she find but a little raccoon curled up asleep at the bottom. We couldn't believe our eyes! He peeked up at us with an anxious gaze but didn't move so I snapped some quick photos of him.

Sometimes a park can reveal so many little surprises, it's a joy. Check out Sunniviews for all the photos under the post titles: Spring Has Sprung, Naming Trees and Discerning Raccoon.

What a very Good Friday indeed!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Cardinal with a Mission

Begone, you pesky rival!
This is my territory and you SHALL not enter!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Anniversary Surprise

I'm sure Maxine suspected something. Her husband Ron had been acting strangely for the past couple of weeks: making more jokes than usual about the ring he'd promised for their 10th anniversary, having a few too many phone conversations on the front porch out of earshot, working late on days he didn't normally.

Despite her suspicions, she sti
ll acted shocked when we surprised her in the hotel room he'd rented, surrounding a candlelit table crammed with wine and a huge meal cooked by my husband.

Ron called us several weeks ago asking for help to present the special ring he'd bought for Maxine. He wanted to re-create their 1st anniversary dinner they had 9 years ago at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse. My husband (who is a chef) agreed to cook a scrumptious meal of steak, lobster, asparagus, and fingerling potatoes with bacon, sour cream and shredded cheddar. Ron wanted to eat in a private place, away from the hectic household and their 3 children, so he rented a hotel room.

The logistics of this plan were quite intricate. My husband and Ron met at the hotel the night before to view the room, getting an idea of the layout and travel time. We went over the next day to check in for them and start setting up. Luckily there was a microwave to do a last minute zap to the food so it would be nice and hot. We decorated the room with scented candles and little "Happy Anniversary" signs. Ron bought a beautiful bouquet of flowers for the table. We set up a dessert and coffee station with little heart chocolates and gummy strawberries. I even went to the thrift store the day before to buy vibrant linen napkins to match the decor (betcha didn't know that, did you Max?)!

Ron had his own set of challenges: how to pack an overnight bag for his wife without her knowing, how to sneak a boom box in the car to play the CD he created of her favorite music, and how to keep his son quiet about the whole deal.

My daughter, on the other hand, was just bursting with the clandestine activity of the whole operation - just like a genuine spy-kid. We brought the walkie-talkies with us so that I could wait in the hotel lobby and buzz them when Ron and Maxine arrived. The code phrase was "the eagle has landed, the eagle had landed!" My husband would know he had exactly 5 minutes to heat up the food and they would both be ready in the room to "show" Ron and Max to their table. (While I was waiting, which was awhile because they were late, she kept calling "check, check" and "roger that" to me - the front desk agent was cracking up.)

It was a pretty fun surprise when all was said and done. We had some laughs recounting the events of the past few weeks. My husband was anxious about the food being just perfect, so we skedaddled out of there soon after they arrived. They loved the food and she loved the ring. I told my husband that it felt like a family catering and maybe we should start a business on the side! He's not too sure about that but we were happy to be involved!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Comforting Delights of Home

Home is such a wonderful place to be. Even though traveling is exciting and thrilling, it's so good to be home... like the peace that follows exhaling a deep, fulfilling breath.

I lo
ve being in my home where all my special treasures are in perfect spots, my favorite books are proudly displayed on bookshelves, my pictures bring back special memories. I love being home.

The other day I was sitting comfortably in the sunlight, folding warm laundry and listening to delightful acoustic music when I noticed patches of brilliant, colorful light falling on the floor. I looked up at the source: my collection of hand-blown glass balls - each one an honored gift or a purchase from a delightful vacation.

I decid
ed to experiment with my new camera and took some photos of these prismatic orbs shining so brilliantly in the sunlight. It's like looking at another little world, an iridescent planet swaying in the bright space of my window.

Each one is special and beautiful but there is one more visually interesting than the others: a purple witch ball with strands of glass running through the center. Back in the early 1800's witch balls were used to ward off evil spirits. The strands were rumored to catch the spirits and prevent them from coming into the house.

If there are evil spirits out there floating around, they've not chosen to enter our home. Perhaps the witch ball has helped. I'd like to think that it has more to do with the love that hold our family and pets together, the happiness that permeates the bricks that surround us, the memories reflected in all of our special things.

A house is made of walls and beams,
a home is built with love and dreams.

(More of my photo experiment on Sunniviews.)

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Subways, Snow and Sky-High Adventures

My daughter and I just got back from New York - the big dazzling city that it is! She had never been to NYC before, much less on the plane that took us there, so it was a thrilling adventure for her.

When we arrived at the airport, she asked all kinds of questions about security: why we had to take our shoes off, why we couldn't bring scissors, what the wand is for and how the x-ray machine works... (Interesting topics for sure!) Once we made it through, she wanted to find our gate, find our plane and buy some snacks. The flight attendant let her peek in the cockpit, she waved to the Marshaller (the guy who guides the planes... yes, I had to look that up) who was nice enough to wave back - five times, and collected more snacks. When the plane took off, she nearly lost her breath and when she found it, she started to giggle and exclaimed that it was like riding a roller coaster, only a whole lot better! We played aviation bingo, visited the bathrooms (which really are very fascinating, doncha think) and enjoyed our snacks.

My sister met us at the airport and we headed to her house. My daughter was beside herself on the subway. Once the initial intimidation subsided, she was right at home, swinging in circles around the bar and peeking out the window at the sights. My sister, a seasoned subway rider, was dismayed by the swinging, so we quickly had to make a rule about that.

It snowed on our first day there and was absolutely beautiful. Seven inches falling fast on a Friday morning. My daughter had never seen so much of the fluffy stuff before and just about jumped out of her skin. Our day was filled with snow angels, snowball fights and snowmen. We stopped at Union Square to let her run wild with the other snow-obsessed NY kids while we sipped coffee on the sidewalk and chatted with other moms. One had lived in NY for over 30 years and her son, who was deeply engaged in a serious snowball fight with my daughter, was named, I kid you not, Cosmo Raleigh. I felt like we were in a scene straight from Seinfeld!

For much of the time we were there, my daughter was dripping wet from the snow. On the Union Square Park day, a puddle literally formed around her as we stood on the subway. She lost her hat on the first day (probably in the park). I gave her one of mine, which is no doubt in the lost and found of the Empire State Building gift shop on the 80th floor. There was one day her boots were so soaked that her freezing cold toes turned numb. We took the boots off on the subway and wrapped her feet in gloves and a scarf!

Anywhere the snow had piled up, my daughter had to tromp through it. She was the queen of any sidewalk snow mountain and the maker of a thousand snowballs! Where ever there was snow, there was my daughter.

But, oh my, it was gorgeous. It sparkled in the fading winter sunlight on Liberty Island. It softly rested on statues and park benches. Birds frolicked playfully in the drifts. It melted slowly and was just about gone on our last night there after we had enjoyed the best tasting Brooklyn pizza that I've ever had the pleasure of eating.

What an experience! New York City in winter! (More pics of our trip on Sunniviews)

P.S. Note to moms and dads - To keep my daughter occupied on the plane and interested in all things NY, I found some great websites with printable activity pages. Enjoy!
Aviation Bingo
Learn All About Airports
Aviation Alphabet, Inside the Cockpit and more
Fun NYC Travel Map
NY State Quarter Worksheet & Design Your Own Quarter
NY State Crossword Puzzle
Empire State Building Coloring Pages
Empire State Building Activity Page
Statue of Liberty Junior Ranger Activity Booklet