Sunday, May 22, 2011

Exploring Providence, RI

It's always hard to choose where to take someone when they come to visit. There are so many options throughout New England. When Sarah visited, we decided on Providence, RI. Providence is a little over three hours away from Albany. It is the capital of Rhode Island and is a really pretty city. The architecture is a great mixture of old and new. There are canals throughout the downtown area with a great riverwalk. It's home to the Rhode Island School of Design, Brown University, and also one of the campuses of Johnson Wales University. The city has rebranded itself the "creative capital." The city definitely has a hip vibe.

We got to Providence in the early afternoon and headed to the Roger Williams Zoo. Gavin is at the perfect age for going to the zoo and we thought it would be a great place for him to run around. The Roger Williams Zoo is one of the nation's oldest. While Gavin did enjoy it, I wouldn't put this on my list of "must sees" in Rhode Island. It was nice enough, just not the most exciting zoo or park.

After visiting the zoo, we headed downtown to get checked into our hotel. We then spent some time walking around downtown, shopping, and enjoying the views from the riverwalk before going to dinner. I had read about a restaurant/bar called The Red Fez in my latest copy of Yankee Magazine. It was said to specialize in gourmet comfort food. The restaurant was also mentioned in several blogs and articles online. When we arrived, we discovered that it's a very small restaurant with just a few tables and not necessarily family friendly. The lady who showed us to our table did not look happy to see us walk in with two small children. She gave me an absurd look when I asked if she had a highchair. We were kind of laughing about it as we settled in. Give me a break- just because we have kids does not mean we should have to settle for the likes of The Cheesecake Factory or Red Robin. This place had the cool vibe in full effect and Adam joked that it was too bad it was the one day that he wasn't wearing his black Misfits t-shirt. Instead, he was all prepped out in his short sleeved button down! But, once we convinced the waitress that our kids were well-behaved, she seemed to warm up to us. Adam and I ordered the Macaroni & Cheese with Chorizo. Sarah had the same, only without the chorizo. Gavin had a grilled cheese sandwich. And, little miss Liv had some red bliss mashed potatoes. The comfort food lived up to the high praise that I read about. I'd definitely recommend The Red Fez- just be sure you're cool enough to enter!

We spent the evening back at our hotel- Adam, Sarah, and Gavin went out and picked up dessert from a bakery. Olivia enjoyed the freedom to crawl around the hotel room and be crazy. The next morning, we had breakfast, did a little more shopping, drove through Brown's campus and then headed back to Albany. Here are a few pictures of our time spent in Providence. Enjoy!
Adam and Gavin, checking out the seals at Roger Williams Zoo

Livie Lou, scarfing on her garlic mashed...
Mmm... mac  & cheese goodness
College Hill- Providence, RI

Friday, May 20, 2011

Sarah and the bakeries of Manhattan

Last month, we were treated to a visit from my sister, Sarah. Adam had taken a few days off, which allowed us to leave the kids with him and take a short girls' trip to the city. New York is such an amazing city and every experience can be really different depending on who you go with. There really is something for everyone, and that "something" for Sarah, is bakeries. We basically just had an itinerary based all around food- and it was awesome!
We took the Amtrak to the city and once we got into Penn Station, we jumped on the subway and headed straight to Chelsea Market. Chelsea Market is below the Food Network studios, and it is amazing. There are tons of bakeries, specialty food and kitchen shops, and little eateries. We were in heaven! We started the visit off with a mini cupcake from Eleni's. Then we stopped for a grilled cheese sandwich at Lucy's Whey. The grilled cheese sandwich was delicious- made with a crisp bread, fresh mozzarella, a thin slice of ham, and a sun-dried tomato pesto. It was fabulous! I'm salivating just thinking about it, actually.
After exploring Chelsea, we walked over to Greenwich Village, in search of a bakery that we went to on our last visit. The only problem was - we had no idea what the name of it was or the address. Needless to say, we never found it. We did stumble upon Magnolia Bakery, though. Second cupcake, check.
We spent the rest of the afternoon shopping and then headed to our hotel to get ready for dinner. We decided to have dinner at an Italian restaurant on the Upper East Side, Bella Blu. It had a fun ambiance and the food was very good. To make room for dessert, we bummed around Time Square, laughing at all the tourist crap they sell. Finally, we had midnight dessert at Serendipity 3.
The next morning we headed down the East Village for breakfast at Clinton St Baking Company. As always, the food was fantastic and filling. Of course, we had to find room for doughnuts at Doughnut Plant, which was also featured on Throwdown with Bobby Flay. The guys there were really funny; after hearing that we were from the Seattle area, they brought up Top Pot Doughnut. They are convinced that theirs are better, of course. I have to say, I think Top Pot has the edge... but, I could be just as biased. Nostalgia is pretty powerful.
We had a great time in the city, but were absolutely exhausted by the end of our second day. I'm sure we walked off nearly all the calories we consumed. For sure, the highlight for me was that grilled cheese sandwich at Chelsea Market. Man, that was good!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Life with Olivia at 10 months

Olivia is now a 10 month old, full of personality! I know that I say it again and again, but she is really such a joy to be around. She is just a complete sweetheart! Even when she is crying or being fussy, I melt when I hold her.

Livie still maintains her "evil genius" status, as she is a big troublemaker! We have to watch her closely because she is a speed crawler and seems to be drawn to whatever she shouldn't be into. That's most kids, though! Liv really gets a kick out of us catching her climbing stairs or getting into Max's water bowl. Her little grin is contagious.

Olivia is getting close to walking. She walks along the furniture but doesn't stand by herself yet. I am not sure if she is in much of a hurry, considering she gets around so easily with her mad crawling skills. She is now saying "Mama" and "Dada" pretty regularly, which is very sweet. She also waves "Hi" and I swear, she actually said "Hi" while waving once. The thing that cracks us up most is that Olivia nods her head in agreement. We are having a great time having conversations with her and getting her to nod. For example, "Livie, do you think the NBA playoffs are dragging on?" She will most definitely nod in agreement.

I have been making nearly all of her baby food, which I did not anticipate doing. It turns out that it is super easy and makes me feel great that I know what she is consuming. With the help of my Cuisenart food processor, I am whipping up all kinds of purees. My plan is to just ease out the pureeing, give her the same fruits and vegetables in a chunkier texture, and try to maintain a healthy palate into toddlerhood. I didn't do this with Gavin and am really struggling getting these foods into his diet. I'll keep you updated on this experiment.

Anyhow, things are good with Livie Lou. Obviously, we all adore her! Here are a few pictures from the past month. Enjoy!
A day at the park, Buckingham Lake
Trying to master the sippy cup- she much prefers you to just feed her a bottle... little diva!
At the tulip festival at Washington Park, Mother's Day 2011
This little face has cheered me up many times over the last week, and it will probably get her just about anything she wants out of life... at least from me!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Spring travels: Burlington, VT

It has been pouring all week here. It is so frustrating because I have so many projects that require dry weather. I am painting our front porch, which is actually a much bigger job than I anticipated. It hasn't helped that the weather has been so unpredictable. I have the railings completed, but still have the pillars, ceiling, and floor left. We are also giving our laundry room a face lift. Laundry room is pretty generous- it's basically a dungeon with a washer and dryer in it. I have scraped the chipping paint and washed the walls with bleach and water. Now, everything must dry out so I can paint. So, while I wait for the weather to improve, I thought I'd take this time to catch up on this blog. I actually have many east coast stories to tell you about. Get ready for several posts in the next few days!

Adam had a few days off at the end of March. We decided to head up to Burlington, VT for a day trip. We had not been up to that part of Vermont before and had heard that Burlington was a fun town. It's also the home of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream. We thought Gavin would enjoy that, so I punched Ben & Jerry's into the GPS and away we went. Now, hilariously enough, I did not type in the exact location of the factory- just Ben & Jerry's. Basically, that is like punching in "Starbucks" on a visit to Seattle, if you wanted to see the headquarters. I took some crap for that when we pulled up to an ordinary Ben & Jerry's store! Oh well, the location was right downtown, so we decided to go have some ice cream and walk around. The other funny part of this trip, it was absolutely freezing outside! So, we were all eating ice cream while wearing hats and gloves.
The popular area in Burlington is the Church Street Marketplace. It is a pedestrian-only, cobblestone street that is lined with shops and restaurants. I love visiting towns like these- fun atmosphere, and perfectly walkable. I wish we had prepared for the chilly weather and dressed warmer. We would have spent more time walking around. Burlington is surrounded by the Green Mountains and sits on the shores of Lake Champlain. Lake Champlain is one of the most beautiful lakes I have ever seen. It is just stunning. Come to think of it, Burlington reminds me a lot of Bellingham, WA.
Church Street
THE Ben & Jerry's (or the one that the GPS led us to :))
Lake Champlain, still iced over a bit in late March, 2011
After our stroll through the Church Street Marketplace, we headed over to the actual Ben &Jerry's factory for a tour. The factory is just outside of Burlington in the town of Waterbury. It was actually very interesting to learn about the history of Ben & Jerry. After taking a correspondence class in ice cream making, they opened up their first store in 1978. You can check out the highlighted link above to read how their story evolved. What impressed me most is their long-standing commitment to make their product in the most environmentally friendly way. This is extremely trendy right now, but from what I can tell, this has been important to this company from day one. It is why they do not sell their ice cream in larger sizes. They use fresh, local, and therefore more expensive, ingredients which drives the cost up. They sell their one pint containers of goodness at a specialty price, but really it's a specialty treat. Anyhow, I enjoy success stories like this one. Gavin mostly enjoyed the free samples. It was actually snowing when we got to the factory. I later read on their website that they offer guided snowshoe tours. That sounds like a blast! Might have to add that to next winter's adventures. Here are a few pictures we took at the factory. It was a rather touristy thing to do, but fun nonetheless. Enjoy!
Olivia and I bundled up outside the ice cream factory...

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Loving Starsky

We lost our beloved Starsky this week. An escape artist from birth, he finally met his match when he darted in front of a truck. It happened fast, and unfortunately, right in front of my and Gavin's eyes. He died on impact and did not suffer long. We are all heartbroken and miss him terribly.

We got Starsky in August of 2003. We had just closed on the purchase of our first home. Adam claims that we had an agreement to wait six months before getting a dog. He was not at all amused when I had him driving up Sedro Woolley to look at a litter of beagle puppies just two weeks after closing. We fought about it the whole way, even having to pull over so I could throw a massive tantrum. I sobbed and wailed, "I've always wanted a dog and couldn't have one when I was little! You can't tell me that I can't have a dog!" Adam didn't stand a chance. The puppies we went to look at were six weeks old and would be ready to go in a few weeks. However, we were looking for a black male pup and these pups were all light colored females. Wasn't it convenient that there were two little 9 week old male pups, both black- running around, cute as can be? Before Adam knew it, he was driving 20 minutes to the nearest ATM to get our $300. We came home with Starsky that very night.

He was a great dog from the beginning- so much personality. We tried to train Starsky, and he had the basics covered. He'd sit on command or lay down. But, ask him to shake or roll over- he'd look at you like, "you're kidding, right?" Beagles are funny dogs. They will love you unconditionally, but don't necessarily want to impress you. Starsky made his presence known at all times. He was pretty needy, which is why nine months after getting him, we came home with Max. Starsky and Max could not have been more different, yet they complimented each other perfectly. There was no question that Starsky was the alpha dog, but he let Max get his way almost all of the time. He loved the companionship so much that it was worth being pushed off the dog bed. He'd just let Max get comfortable, and squeeze in next to him. They were partners in crime, too. Starsky had the agility to grab food off of the counters that Max just does not have. I'm not sure how Max is handling the loss of his buddy. We can't tell if he is moping or just being himself. We are giving him lots of love and hope that he is ok.

Starsky was my first dog and I learned a lot about the less glamorous aspects of dog ownership. I now know more about canine anal glands than I ever would have imagined. Starsky had a chronic smell that led me to google, "my dog's butt stinks." That search informed me that Starsky had an anal gland issue which made him smell funky. So, after a few visits to the vet for relief at $20 a pop, Adam went on YouTube and learned how to take care of it himself. If that's not love, what is? We even had a family song for the event, "Defunk the butt, gotta defunk the butt." Not much funnier than hearing a three year old sing that along with his dad. This is a totally inappropriate paragraph for our dog's eulogy, but I felt we all could use a little comic relief.

This has been a hard week, but as Adam said, Starsky died happy. He loved nothing more than making an escape and running like hell. I can't count how many escapes he made in the eight years we had him. He loved to be chased. When we'd take him to the dog park, he always got a chase going. Somehow, he'd get 5 to 10 dogs to chase him all in a line. He'd be at the front, letting out his beagle howl, tail wagging at full speed. He was a punk, and he fit into this family perfectly. He loved this family and wanted nothing more than to be loved in return. He was sweet to our kids, even though he lost out on some attention when they came along. I hope that where ever he is now, he's got wide open spaces to run and also a nice, sunny space in a garden to nap, preferably a garden full of fresh, stinky compost. Goodbye, Starsky. We'll love you always.