Friday, November 30, 2012

Much Thanks 2012

Last week was Thanksgiving!  It was so great to have a nice long weekend and such funtivities with the family.  To start things off, why not a nice race to work up an appetite for an epic feast?  Amber didn't organize her usual race this year, instead handing over the reins to a young local fellow to put it together for his Eagle project, and for awareness of cancer (a young woman in their neighborhood was recently undergoing some treatment for it, sad).  It was a pretty great turnout, they said about 150-200 between both the 5K and the 1 mile, and Jonny, Melody, Julia, Gabe, Evy, Cami, Jake, Amber, Jillian, Ally and I all participated (Julie stayed home to get started on some delicious foods for later).  It was a fun race and a pretty nice course with just the right amount and length of uphills and downnills.  I started out pretty strong, though there were a gaggle of healthy teenagers ahead of me, but after about half a mile I pulled ahead of them, and there I stayed for the rest of the race!  I totally won!  I wasn't expecting it at all (certain persons who are brothers-in-law usually beat me, but certain persons were pushing strollers, so I took advantage of this opportunity).  It was actually not even quite 3 miles (2.95), and I kind of ran around the parking lot a little farther than the outlined course, crossing the finish line backwards, ha, but I thought that might make it closer to a full 5K, which it didn't really.  But anyway, I finished with a great time (20:48, though I finished out the 3.1 at 21:52, 7:04/mile), and it was fun, and let me just say that, though it may seem petty, there is something kind of satisfying about beating your junior high school bully in a years-later 5K by almost 15 minutes. Vindicated!!!  I have said many times before that if I could run a 7-minute mile in 8th grade, my life just might have turned out differently (which is a silly thing to say, I guess, since if ANYthing had been different than it was in ANYone's life, things might have turned out differently... still).  It was still a pretty validating feeling.*

Jake came in with Melody and Jonny et al. shortly behind.
Julia ran the whole thing!!!  Just kidding, she started running when they reached the parking lot.
Gabe likewise, though it was just far enough to make him start to lose interest about halfway through.
This is what happened when I asked Gabe to smile for the camera.
And then Amber and Cami appeared!  Amber was excited.
And Cami was pretty excited too.
I won!  1st place!  Go me!
This just looked kind of cool.  The tips of the antlers you see on the very bottom belonged to a festive decoration being worn by a minivan.
Then we had dinner!  Twas a feast.  I went home after the race to help The Wife make our contributions, and she even had a sudden inspiration to try a fresh pumpkin pie.  She likes to make the green bean casserole because it MUST be made with the right French-cut variety of green beans, and the yams are always a favorite of hers too.  So when our delicious things were ready we headed up to Mom's house.
Just look how cute she is.
Green beans!
Impromptu pumpkin pie!
It was as delicious as always, and the company was great of course.  We played football (yes, even I!), ate way too much dessert, rested and played games, and even had an arts and crafts event with turkeys made of sweets.  Then, to really ring in the season, Mom and I played our infamous annual favorite, Sleigh Ride.

Check out Melody's sweet pass.  I wasn't playing at this point because I was behind the camera.  Props to me for my IT Crowd reference.
I can't remember whose hand is photobombing this picture, but I'm pretty sure it's Katy.  I took another one without, but this one had more character.
Le perfect plate.
Wife likes her pies.
Just because.
I have been known to be something of an artiste, you know.
No Mom, it doesn't sound like the Farley Family Reunion version.  Still, it wasn't our best.
I am ever so thankful for my family, the one I get to see on holidays and other special occasions, and the one I get to come home to afterward.  It was splendid to spend time with everyone, and I'm always so grateful for my beautiful wife, and the knowledge that I have that we will be together forever and always thanks to that most awesome Plan.

Happy Thanksgibing back!

* In his defense, he is reportedly a fairly repentant former bully, so I don't really harbor any grudges or hard feelings, lo, these 15+ years later, but I'll take my victories as they come.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Epic European Tour, Part VII: New York City Postlude

And then we were in New York City!  After such a long stretch of traveling, we were SO tired that it took everything in us to take the Subway into the city and lug our suitcases along the streets to the hotel that we had arranged for our one night stay.  Elise and Jeff were catching a late night/early morning bus back home, so they crashed on our hotel room floor for a few hours before it was time for them to creep out and catch their ride, the earlier to be home with their little one.  As for me and The Wife, we were so totally beat that we didn't hear a single peep while Elise and Jeff gathered their things and headed out.  And then it was morning!  And we were sorry to already have to leave our delightful hotel room, which was such an oasis in the middle of the city after so much time in an airplane and bus and train and etc. etc., but we were ready to see some sights and walk around for a while.
It came with robes.
Surpreeze!!!  Did I surpreeze you?
It had a bathroom!!!  Amazing, I know.
Some good old American TV.  (HGTV, of course!)
Chic decor.
Not much of a view, unless you want a taste of NY living, then it's a fantastic view.
This bed was such a delight to sleep in after so much intercontinental traveling.
Oh hallo, packing Wife.
We didn't want to leave!  So we didn't head out as early as we had originally planned.
Goodbye, Chambers Hotel!  We'll probably visit you again someday!

So then by the time we were up and ready and packed and dropped off our bags at the front desk for holding and checked out, we had a precious eight hours or so to do everything in the city we wanted to/could.  Besides our quick time passing through on the way to JFK to catch our flight to Europe, The Wife had never been there, and it had been several years for me, so we grabbed our Subway/city map and bought our day passes and did some prioritizing and tried our best to hit all the spots we wanted to see, with some along the way, before we had to catch our evening bus back to Maryland.
My employer!  Does that mean I get to count this as a day of work?
CBS!  I wonder if there are any Survivors in there.
Time to have some breakfast from a real NY street vendor.
Radio City Music Hall!  Keane is coming soon!
Rockefeller Center!  There were ice skaters already, but it wasn't very crowded, which surprised me.
Some real NY pizza, right, Michael Scott?
SO cute.
The New York Public Library!  Shh.
Great jumping picture, Wife!
Me and a lion.
Wife had a slightly different approach.
And then, after seeing all those mini-stops along the way, we made it to the Empire State Building!
We went up to the observation deck!  It's such a great view.  Here we have the Statue of Liberty.
And the Flatiron Building.
And the Chrysler Building!
It's crazy that those buildings we can see the top of are also skyscrapers.
The Hudson (I think) River.
The Brooklyn (I think) Bridge.
The tippy-top!  It was great to take the time to go to the top of this since it's a good way to see so many sights at once.  We ended up walking the last eight or ten flights of stairs, which saved us a 45-minute wait in another line.  Right on.
Ummm, I think you're wearing that wrong, Wife.
A NY pretzel and Macy's!  The pretzel was pretty hard.
There it is!  Just peeking through.
La la la.
The Wife really likes those turtles, even if she's hesitant to give this rebooted version a try.
On our way to Times Square!  Check out the horrible knock-off walkaround characters.  Two Pusses in Boots?!?  How is that even possible?
So sad that we just missed the big HP exhibition!
The new Times Square Disney Store was a thing of wonder.  The escalator said it was taking us to a new and magical world of enchantment.  Wife looks enchanted all right!
Spider-Man is eating your head!!!
For Britney.
Anyone home?
Times Square!  We made it.
Alas, we just didn't have time to catch Newsies.
But we DID have time for a jumping Newsies photo shoot.
Remember what I said about missing the HP exhibition?  It will be right here very soon.
What a giant Bilbo poster!!!
Snip-snip, designers!
Sad again.  I considered toughing it out and seeing it the night before right when we came to town, but we were way too tired, and besides it was too late by the time we made it into the city.  It wasn't the original Jack anymore anyway.  Oh well.
And thus we have entered the under-construction Museum of Natural History.  The funny thing is this museum isn't nearly as fancy and elegant as that movie makes it look, but it still has some pretty cool things.
Some elephants!
That T-Rex!  I wonder if it will come to life at night.
A giant prehistoric tortoise!
A giant prehistoric equine-type creature!
Various representations of the Steg.
Wife doing her best Brachiosaurus impression.
Umm... what exactly are you planning on there, Mr. Lizardman?
DOUBLE GROSS!!!  (Remember this, Lacie and Leland?  VERY funny.)
Don't trust it.  The water was brown and icky.
A giant whale!
This whale wasn't quite as big, but the display was all dark and spoooky (the extra O was an accident, but I'll leave it in anyway).
This lil' sea lion was just peeking its head up to say hallo.

After a good while seeing pretty much all the museum, we grabbed some lunch and crossed Central Park.
Where's Waldo?  Central Park, evidently.
What up, Met?
Check out this Mucha!
A nice little statue garden.  We had to kind of scurry through the Met to keep our schedule.
 And that was about it!  I say that the Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center, the Public Library, Bryant Park, the Empire State Building (et al.), Times Square (et al.), Parsons, the Museum of Natural History, Central Park, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art all in one day is pretty darn good.  We wanted to run a couple of blocks up just to at least SEE the Guggenheim, but we were pressed for time as it was.  So we hauled it back to the hotel, picked up our suitcases and hauled it to the Subway station to catch the train over to where our bus picked us up to take us back to DC.  I will say this about the Subway:  It's amazing that it can get you ALL the way across town in so relatively short an amount of time, but when you're waiting and counting the minutes and the seconds and the trains just keep not coming, it can be pretty stressful.  I just didn't know what we would do if we missed that bus, but when it came down to it, we were running those last couple of blocks, and we made it just in time (and I mean JUST in time...).  There were standby people foaming at the mouth for empty seats, and we were ever so so thankful that we made it with moments to spare, and heck, we were even able to sit one in front of the other (it's not side-by-side, but we were glad to be pretty close anyway).  Then when the bus stopped partway in MD and some people left, we were able to find two seats together, and even seats with a ledge we could put our feet up on.  We made it back to DC and were picked up by our travel buddies Elise and Jeff who drove us back to their place, where we were then met by Emily, our wonderful hostess of the week before, and it didn't take long to fall asleep.

The next morning we were up earlyish so we could have just a little time to spend with the triplets again, and finish packing up, and make our flight not at the last minute.  We were sad to leave our back east family, but were so glad that we were finally able to make it there to visit them one and all.  I can't believe how wonderful all four of those toddlers are.  Emily took a picture of me with them, but I don't have it.  If I can track it down, I'll post it later (eh, Emily?), I just really want to accomplish my goal of finishing these posts before Thanksgiving Day (and just barely!).  It didn't take long to get our landlegs back, and after another long plane ride and a couple of car rides home, we realized we had over the last two days on basically every form of transporation known to modern man, and therefore we were ever so glad to finally be back at our nice little place.

And that, my friends, brings me to a close of our Epic European Tour trip report.  It was amazing how it all came together, and even while we were there we sort of couldn't believe that it was happening after so many months of waiting.  My art historian wife and I were thrilled to see so much famous art and beautiful locations, and although there's never enough time to do everything on a trip like this, it was fantastic to get such a wonderful taste of so many different places and things.  One day we'll take those return trips to Italy and France and we'll look back on the memories we made in the fall of 2012 with great fondness.  I love having such a fun and pretty traveling companion.