Category Archives: Summer

I wish that I could be like the cool kids

Image: Echosmith.com

Image: Echosmith.com

Have you heard this catchy little tune by Echosmith? When it comes on the radio Quinn always ask me to turn it up “like a party” and he sings along to the lyrics:

  “I wish that I could be like the cool kids,

‘Cause all the cool kids, they seem to fit in…

I wish that I could be like the cool kids,

‘Cause all the cool kids they seem to get it.”

It breaks my heart a little bit each time.

Don’t you remember those kids? The ones who seemed to always have the right clothes and the right hair and could always say and do the right thing? Their shiny perfection made everything a regular kid did seem dull in comparison.

I wasn’t one of the cool kids. Although I had plenty of friends, I certainly wasn’t in the upper social stratosphere. Somehow I survived school, and even eventually went back to revisit those days for a couple of reunions – the 10th, the 21st (don’t ask), the 25th. What I’ve learned over the years, though, is we all have more in common than we ever would have allowed ourselves to imagine when we were fellow students. We each have strengths and weaknesses, parts which are attractive and some which are less appealing and successes and failures. We’re human.

Every September is a reunion for school kids. I want my children to understand that being one of the cool kids in school isn’t a guarantee of a lifetime of happiness. Summer experiences and growth have the potential to impact every child. Attitudes and preferences change and each new academic year is a clean slate of opportunity for everyone. Getting that is ultimately far more important than fitting in.

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Filed under aging, Boys, musings, Summer, Uncategorized

Adirondack Tubing Adventures

image: lakegeorgeguide.com

The other day, Quinn and I cashed in a Living Social offer I had purchased for Adirondack Tubing Adventures in Lake Luzerne. Summer seems unrelenting in its march towards Labor Day and the return to school and I knew that Monday’s forecast was the best one of the week. We made a reservation and up the Northway we went.

We arrived at the rustically modest shop after about 75 minutes on the road. We had been warned that we should print our voucher in advance because we wouldn’t have cell phone service. Good call. We checked in and at the appropriate time received our life vests and boarded the bus for a bouncy 15 minute ride to the “putting in” spot. Once we arrived, we were given our tubes (we went with the basic, un-upgraded model) and a few simple directions and then, as a group, we were off.

The pristine waters of the upper Hudson were fantastic. The water temperature was reported to be about 68 degrees, but when the sun was shining, it felt even warmer. The water was soft and without clouds, never getting deeper than about 5 feet, from what I could tell. The fresh smell of the air, faintly cedarish with an occasional whiff of campfire wood smoke, was lovely.

We floated, Quinn and I tied together once again by a cord, doing our best to stay in the middle of the river for the best currents. Along the shore we observed 3 ducks whose remarkable camouflage kept them hidden until one moved ever so slightly revealing their presence. There were pretty wild flowers punctuating the scenery, including some tall, vivid red ones* which I don’t recall ever seeing before. I wished I could have gone closer for a better look, but going with the flow was the day’s agenda so that’s what I did.

A little more than an hour into the trip, we paused on a sandbar for a little beach time. The kids on the trip really enjoyed being out of their tubes and feeling the sensation of the river pulling them along as if it were indeed the ultimate lazy river. I appreciated the chance to stretch a bit, but as our time on land passed, I felt myself growing cold and was happy to get moving again. We reached the “taking out” spot after about another 50 minutes, I think. The times are all approximate since I didn’t wear a watch, and the old Timex one I pulled from the river’s bottom, unfortunately, took too much of a licking to still be ticking.

We were met by our bus and, after a 5 minute bus ride, returned to the shop and our vehicles. Quinn and I changed and drove over to outlets area of Lake George and grabbed a few quick slices from a place called Frank’s on Route 9. I’ve got to say I was pleasantly surprised with the pizza. The crust was crisp, the toppings generous and the sauce flavorful. I’ve had way worse pizza and I wouldn’t hesitate to stop there again. It was a good day.

*When I checked out All Over Albany’s weekly neighborhood roundup I learned exactly what they were, cardinal flowers!

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Filed under Boys, family, pizza, Recommendations, road trips, Summer, upstate New York

On the beach…

…there’s sand.  Grains and grains of sand.  Because of this condition, this year I committed to taking only paperback books to the beach.  I mean, really, when it comes to reading at the beach, something I can finally do now that my boys are older, the paperback is the only way to go.

There are a couple of books which left a big impression upon me when I first read them many years ago.  I decided to revisit them to see if they still would move me after so many years had gone past.

I started with Hemingway’s  A Moveable Feast.  When I first read it, I was an undergraduate infatuated with the romance of Europe and expatriates.  Two of those three have not changed.  Reading it last week,  I was once again  transported to Paris, witnessing the cafe life of some of America’s finest writers during the 1920s.  Hemingway’s observations, recounted from memory decades later, are remarkable as he paints such vivid scenes with an almost miserly number of words.  It still works for me.

A couple of favorite passages:

“We’ll come home and eat here and we’ll have a lovely meal and drink Beaune from the co-operative you can see right out of the window there with the price of the Beaune on the window. And afterwards we’ll read and then go to bed and make love.”

“In Europe then we thought of wine as something as healthy and normal as food and also as a great giver of happiness and well being and delight. Drinking wine was not a snobbism not a sign of sophistication nor a cult; it was as natural as eating and to me as necessary, and I would not have thought of eating a meal without drinking either wine or cider or beer.”

The other title I picked up for the first time in years was Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate.  I remember being absolutely charmed by this wonderful novel when I initially encountered it.  The passion!  The deftly handled magical realism!  I loved it then and I love it now.  I could almost taste the words.

Here are a few morsels to savor.

“To the table or to bed
You must come when you are bid.”

“A man equal to loving someone who needed love as much as she did, a man like him.”

“…within our bodies each of us has the elements needed to produce phosphorus… each of us is born with a box of matches inside us but we can’t strike them by ourselves…each person has to discover what will set off those explosions in order to live, since the combustion that occurs when one of them is ignited is what nourishes the soul.”

What are your favorites?  Have you revisited any recently?

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Filed under Books, Cape Cod, favorites, Martha's Vineyard, Recommendations, Summer, vacation

Dinner at the Art Cliff Diner

During the two weeks we spend at the beach each summer, we eat dinner out maybe a handful of times. Part of that decision is based upon practicalities – kids, expense, day drinking and driving, but the fact that we’ve been disappointed with pricy meals in restaurants with menus that attempt to satisfy adults and children, is the biggest factor in choosing either take out (less expensive than dining in with tip/adult beverages) or cooking at home.

All that said, there’s a place in Vineyard Haven I’d been wanting to try for a few years – the Art Cliff Diner. Sunday the stars aligned and the guys and I finally got there and we couldn’t have been happier. The Art Cliff is both a food truck and a stationary restaurant. We pulled into their shared parking lot at what seemed to be the ideal time, about 5:15. The restaurant wasn’t open for business, but the truck’s menu more than sufficed for us.

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There were maybe a dozen options and we were able to find something for each of us – Liam chose the cheesesteak sandwich ($14?) which was as fine an example of that item as I’ve ever enjoyed. The meat was thinly sliced, maybe even shaved, with sweet onions and the perfect amount of cheese. The portion was more than generous.

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For Griffin it was the pig on a roll ($8?), a moist pulled pork sandwich with cole slaw. He declined the chipotle mayo, but I’m sure it would have added a terrific kick to the tender and overstuffed sandwich. I also went with pork in the form of spicy pork taco. The soft flour tortilla ($8?) was complete with juicy pork, greens, a sour cream based sauce and green salsa. It was really, really delicious.

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Quinn went with a ho-hum hotdog ($4) which he thoroughly enjoyed and we rounded out things with two generous orders of fries – one plain and one dusted with grated Parmesan. The fries were fantastic and would make an awesome and satisfying snack solo at only $6.

Our total for a really high quality and nicely presented meal, with soft drinks was a fair and reasonable $57 before tip. I imagine their offerings change regularly, but can’t imagine ever being disappointed by their food.  Have you been there?  Tell me about it!  If you haven’t yet, try it and let me know.

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Filed under Boys, Dinner, Eating, Food, Martha's Vineyard, Recommendations, Summer, vacation

Pacing myself

It seems that so much of life involves schedules and commitments. When we’re at work, during our designated work hours, we frequently have to respond to the demands of others, doing what “they” want, when “they” want it. In my chosen profession(s) I have to be responsive to other people’s needs and, when it’s work time, I don’t take issue with it at all. But, when I’m on vacation, that’s just not happening.

I’m a morning person. It isn’t unusual for me to wake up with the birds and I love the sense of feeling in tune with the earth. Since I need something in my tummy before I can drink coffee, breakfast is a mandatory meal for me. Beyond that, though, I’m winging it. I don’t want to feel pressured to have a meal just because it’s lunch time or dinner time. I want to eat when I’m hungry or to line my stomach before enjoying a cocktail or three. It’s vacation. Unless I have reservations for somewhere, I’m all about eating simply when I feel like it.

Not surprisingly for a librarian, I’m super organized. I prefer to stay on top of things in terms of tidying up, laundry and keeping our stuff under control. I hate the feeling of haphazard inefficiency. Seriously, it makes me more than a little insane. To avoid this, I try to combine errands and minimize the number of times I have to get in and out of my car. Particularly when we’re staying on an island that is inaccessible by car when the tide is in.

I’m realizing that I might be challenging to be around on vacation since I feel about vacation as I do about running: it’s my time to completely set my own pace. Beyond the rhythm of the tides, I won’t be pressured to abide by anyone else’s schedule or demands. It’s my vacation and I want to go with my own flow. Don’t you?

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Filed under Cape Cod, musings, Random, running, Summer, vacation

World Cup recap – bonding over balls and beer

Are you a soccer fan? Prior to the recent World Cup tournament, I certainly wouldn’t have declared myself to be one. When I answered Matt Baumgartner’s call for temporary employees to assist during the tournament, I was responding as a worker, not a soccer fanatic. But, something has definitely changed. This whole soccer thing? I think I like it.

Although two of my boys play soccer, I’ve avoided the moniker “soccer mom” with the skill of a teenager ducking household chores. Not me, no way. I attend games and cheer enthusiastically from the sidelines, but I certainly have no interest in driving around in a minivan with a soccer ball decal stuck to the back window. You know me, I’m not much of a joiner or follower.

The first match I worked was Team USA vs Portugal. The crowd at Wolff’s Biergarten was tremendous – pumped up and loud, but in no way aggressive or obnoxious. I loved their enthusiasm and the excitement was contagious. This was definitely going to be fun.

As “our” team advanced, along with Team Germany, the team of my maternal side of the family, I realized that my soccer playing middle son needed to be part of the scene. I arranged to bring him and a couple of his friends down to check out a match. They were awesome! In a crowd of hundreds, they hung out, clad in red, white and blue, mesmerized by the game and the other spectators. I was impressed by their poise and comfort and knew that Griffin and I would become regulars for the duration of the tournament.

As the matches came fast and furious, so did the communication between my family and me – emails, Facebook messages and status updates. Knowing that my family in Germany were occupied watching the same event as we were, was intensely comforting. Who knew that a ball game could make the world seem so small? I absolutely loved it.

When Team USA was eliminated, we placed our energy into cheering on the motherland, Deutschland. Our German flag accompanied us to the subsequent matches and I cherished the opportunity to be proud of being German in a world that doesn’t always perceive us as being worthy of admiration. The hefeweizen flowed and steins were raised amidst shouts of Prost! and Griffin and I hung out, side by side, united in our interest for 90+ minutes.

Photo: Wolff's Biergarten

Photo: Wolff’s Biergarten

Four years from now, my son will be 19, perhaps not as inclined to hang out in a sports bar with his mom as he was this year. I’d like to think, though, that he’ll someday tell his own children about the times he and I spent together watching the World Cup. If he doesn’t, believe me, I will.

More pictures from the tournament here.

http://www.timesunion.com/seen-events/slideshow/SEEN-U-S-A-vs-Belgium-World-Cup-at-Wolff-s-88979.php

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Filed under Albany, beer, Boys, Events, family, Germany, soccer, Summer, television

Morning thoughts

imageThe sun is peeking out from the soft grey clouds and my private little deck beckons. Listening to the birds and the trees on a quiet morning while the rest of the house still sleeps, is one of my favorite times of the day. No one needs anything, other than the hummingbird who just cruised by the feeder looking for some breakfast. He’ll have to wait.

I’ve been visiting the Cape for 16 consecutive summers and the charm has yet to wear off. Sure, there are places I no longer find appealing (I’m talking to you, obvious consumption Chatham) but, in general, I still appreciate what this place offers me. Despite all the changing variables – where we stay, the layouts of the various houses we have rented, the time of the summer, the composition of our families, which friends visit, the most special thing to me about the Cape is how it itself remains constant. There will be fried seafood and sandy feet and predictable tides. The shoreline may shift and beaches and dunes will erode, but the sun will reliably drop into the bay in a blaze of orange and purple at the end of the day. This, is what I love about being here.

I can’t help but reflect on my boys and how their needs and interests have changed over the years. The amount of props they once required! Strollers and pack and plays, life preservers and diapers – all gone now, replaced by digital toys and, thank God, books. When I packed this year, in my usual style, filling Rubbermaid containers which can double as hampers after the clothing is hastily put into temporary homes in strange dressers, I got my own bin for the first time ever. For years, I’ve shared my bin with my youngest as I’ve placed the big guys’ clothes together. This year their stuff is all together and I have a smaller box just for me. It means something doesn’t it?

Life is changing – every day. Coming to the beach and taking the time to recognize, accept and honor that, while digging my toes in the sand, makes these weeks the most special of the year. I hope you have a place like that, too.

Time to feed the hummingbirds.

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Filed under aging, Boys, Cape Cod, family, favorites, musings, road trips, Summer, vacation