Sunday, December 14, 2014

Fireworks Spectacular!

Celebrating the 4th of July in New York City was drastically different than our experience the previous year on the 4th in Edinburgh.  It started off alarming as we heard a couple explosions that caused our windows to rattle.  Bobby went to explore what was happening and found out that frayed electrical wires got wet and caused a fire.  The pressure created under the streets because of the fire caused the manhole covers to blow which resulted in the explosions.  A couple people were hurt from the falling manhole covers but no one critically hurt, which is amazing.  They closed off the streets near us that were effected until the fire could be put out.
There was much debate as to the best place to watch the Macy's Firework Show over the East River as the route of setting off the fireworks slightly changed this year.  Since we could not get a good consensus as the best spot from locals and the web, we decided to set off toward the FDR Bridge for a good view of Brooklyn Bridge.  

The fireworks show eventually was amazing!  However, everything surrounding the fireworks was crazy.  We arrived over an hour early planning to grab dinner on our way to a spot and have a picnic while we waited for it to grow dark. However, the large crowds were being controlled by thousands of police and police barriers. We were quickly herded along the streets for blocks upon blocks and had no outlet to get any food.  Once we were in the maze of barriers, there was no getting out.  There was no food, no vendors, and nothing to eat.  I had a couple of crackers in the bottom of the stroller so the kids were able to eat a little bit.  

Once to the spot where we would see the fireworks the police did not allow anyone to sit down in order to squeeze the most amount of people in the area as possible.  So, with over an hour until the fireworks would begin, in 85 degree heat, with unfed children, we were forced to stand in the exact same spot to wait for the show to begin. We quickly understood the folly of our choice to view the fireworks on the FDR. Another family with small children ended up near us and we were able to talk and distract ourselves a little bit while waiting for the show to start.  

The kids loved the fireworks.  Amelie especially liked the ones that were smiley faces and American flags.  Liam laughed and oohed for the first 5 minutes non-stop gaining the laughter of those around us.  

After the show was over, we were all starving.  Once we made it a couple blocks away from the crowds, we started scouting out food options.  We came across a small pizzeria that wasn't overly crowded.  Amelie and Bobby placed our order and waited inside while Liam and I waited with the stroller outside.  We waited for 30+ minutes, watching other people walk away with pizzas while we waited.  Bobby finally figured out that the staff was pocketing money from people.  The staff would charge more to a costumer if they wanted to be moved to the front of the line.  Well, this made Bobby very upset.  He ended up having a loud discussion with the workers and using his starving small children to finally get us our long awaited pizza.  

Liam and I talked to a family with small dogs who were also waiting for a pizza.  They ended up inviting us to their house nearby to eat and have a couple of drinks with them.  As it was 11 o'clock at night and our kids were pooped, we declined their generous offer and made the long trek through the Metro back home.

It will be an experience we will not forget (and not need to repeat for a long time!).  

Monday, September 1, 2014

Parks, Picnics, and Play-dates…How We Spent our First Days in NYC

When we first arrive in a city, we like to get our bearings and establish some routines before we hit the streets too hard.  Our first week in New York City consisted of learning how to play the parking game with our car, scouting out the good playgrounds & grocery stores nearby, and meeting up with friends who now live in the city.  

Bobby's college roommate and his family live in NYC.  The last time we visited NYC, Amelie was a couple months old and we actually stayed with Matthew.   Many New Yorkers like to get out of the city for a bit in the summer, Matthew's family being one.  Since they were leaving shortly after we arrived, we spent our first day with them.  We met in Central Park after lunch and let the kids play at the Billy Johnson Playground.  Unfortunately, we were busy talking and I didn't get any pictures.  The main part of this playground is a 45 foot long slide made of granite.  Not only did they love the slide down, but they also loved getting to the top of the slide.  It's fun because they get to follow a wooded and rocky path that looks like it was carved into the side of a hill.   Someone had brought a cardboard box that Amelie and Liam both were allowed to take a turn with which made the experience down even more faster and fun!  After running around for a while, Liam was ready for a nap.  We headed to a nice grassy patch and Bobby & Matthew allowed the girls to play together while I stayed a distance away reading a Harry Potter book.  I loved that I was already fitting into the New York mom scene as I was stopped a couple of times for directions to places around the park.  Ha!  The peace and quiet in the shade of the trees was amazing.   All good things must eventually come to an end and when Liam woke up we went to FAO Schwarz Toy Store.  The AC felt amazing so we did not mind letting the kids drool at all of the fun toys.  Once we started to get hungry for dinner, Matthew took us to Anable Basin Bar & Grill.   After walking through some industrial zones, we were skeptical of his choice.  However, once we were there we were pleasantly surprised.  Since the restaurant was in Long Island City, we had amazing views of Manhattan.  The atmosphere was relaxed and kid friendly.  We had a full and fun first day in the city!

Eating a quick picnic lunch in Central Park before meeting Matthew.
My view while Liam napped.
Amelie and Jasper having fun on the giant keyboard.
Meeting superstars!

View from our table at dinner.
The following day was much more laid back, but we did meet up with friends who were in our first small groups in Athens.  We met them for a picnic dinner in Central Park's Great Lawn.  The kids loved having the space to run, do cartwheels, play baseball & soccer while we were able to catch up with our friends.  They moved to NYC at the same time that we moved to Paris.  I have loved learning from them and watching their journey of learning how to live well in a busy city with small kids.   We had hoped to spend a lot more time with them, but life is busy!  We were thankful for this laid back evening.  To top off the good company, we also enjoyed waffles with Nutella from the Wafels & Dinges Food Truck.  Yum!!

Our third day in the city we were on our own without any friends. ;)  We took the kids to Grand Central Station and watched the hustle and bustle.  We then went across the street to the Main Public Library.  We went straight to the kids section and read with the kids.  Afterwards, we went through a really cool exhibit.  It was the ABC of it:  Why Children's Books Matter.  Bobby and I were fascinated looking at original books, the history behind them, and how they continue to shape culture.  The exhibit had some interactive elements which Amelie and Liam loved.  Amelie's favorite was seeing the original Winnie the Pooh inspired characters on display.  Since this took up a lot of our kid's attention span.  We headed straight to grab lunch.  We had intentions of making our way back to explore more, but sadly we never did.  Next time, I really want to see the Rose Reading Room.  After a soup & sandwich lunch, we let the kids run around Bryant Park before heading back to the apartment.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Our Home Away from Home in NYC

In traveling, the one thing I can definitively say we have learned is it's all about location…location, location, location!  We not only loved the location of the apartment we were able to stay in while living in New York City, but we loved the apartment itself.  The family who rented us the apartment had a girl and a boy a couple of years older than Amelie and Liam.  This meant that the room was set up perfectly with tons of toys to make us feel at home and comfortable for our stay.  Not only were the kids comfortable, but Bobby and I slept the best we have slept in years on the most comfortable king size bed.  Keep in mind that most of the places we have traveled come equipped with futons or very old mattresses.  We truly felt completely at home in this apartment.

The bunk beds could not have been a more perfect fit!
Liam spent hours playing with the trains.  He LOVED the trains!!  I would have fun building high bridges for him too!

Amelie enjoyed the Barbie house and the bin full of Barbies and Barbie clothes.
We also enjoyed living in a building with a doorman who we spoke to going and coming everyday, and a laundry in the basement.  At first I was disappointed that the laundry was not housed in the apartment, but I learned that no one has this commodity living in the city.  Being able to come and go to the basement to do laundry was a luxury, and I was glad I didn't have to use a local laundry mat!

View from our bedroom window.
Amelie at the entrance of the building.
The kids LOVED the revolving door.  I was always so nervous someone was going to get hurt, but no one did.  They were both very careful.  Many times arriving home, the kids would sprint down the walkway, through the revolving door, past the doorman, and end at the elevator way ahead of us.
Since we had our car, Bobby had to learn the parking game.  Every Monday and Thursday between 9 and 10 a.m., he would have to sit in the car to move it for the street sweeper while not losing his spot near our building.  Saved us a lot of money to park on the street for free though!
The location was also fabulous as it was in the Upper East Side, which is a very family friendly neighborhood.  We were walking distance away from Carl Schurz Park, Central Park, The MET, and of course a Subway stop that took us all over the city!
The red dot is our location. 
Our walk along the river to Carl Schurz Park.  I really enjoyed the walk.
We spent a number of times playing at Carl Schurz Park.  It was the perfect place for me to take them while Bobby was playing the parking game or working.  The playground was large and had a sprinkler in the center.  At times, a Parks & Rec employee would be present with various crafts for the kids to do.  Amelie made an awesome glitter cat one day.  Liam and Amelie enjoyed playing with water balloons provided by various kids too.

Bagel Bob's was close to our apartment and made the best bagels!  We treated ourselves a couple of times to this delicious breakfast of bacon, egg, and cheese on an everything bagel.
Our hosts have offered to let us come for a month every summer, which is a very tempting offer!!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Outer Banks Family Fun

This is the third summer my family has met in Outer Banks, North Carolina for a week to enjoy time together and time at the beach.  The weather was wonderful the whole week.  We enjoyed the beach, playing putt-putt, running through the sand dunes at Jockey's Ridge State Park, swimming in the pool, playing golf, walking Jeannette's Pier, and more.
Amelie and Liam were both so happy to be back at the beach.  The first time our feet hit the sand, Liam squealed and ran like he had just returned home.  Amelie learned how to ride the waves even though the first couple of days the waves were fierce.  She got the hang of it really quickly and didn't mind having salt water in her eyes, nose, and mouth.  She was smiling ear to ear!  Liam desperately wanted to join her, and by the end of the week did (when the waves were not quite so large).  I know exactly what to expect when we get back to the Gulf! :)

Amelie gave Joanna and Alaina mermaid tails made for her 5th birthday.
The girls happened to have the same bathing suit and they really had fun matching!

Mermaid's purses by the dozens washed on shore one morning.  These are egg cases of skates.
Helping Uncle Michael and Aunt Katie building a sand castle. 

Liam riding the waves with Uncle Michael