Tag Archives: boys

The multiculturalism of crepes

DSC_0002My youngest son goes to a magnet elementary school in our neighborhood. The latter fact is more the reason he attends that particular school than the arts and humanities centered curriculum, but we do enjoy many of the activities based upon the school’s theme.

This week the school community’s marked their Third Annual Multicultural Celebration. My son came home very excitedly to share that his class would be representing France. After a visit from a French college student, he was obsessed by the thought of making crepes as our contribution to the event. The sound of his voice repeatedly saying “crepe” in an attempted French accent, convinced me that this was an idee fixe that deserved to be indulged.

After a tedious remarkable number of suggestions from my 9 y/o with regards to how to make crepes (the batter must be made the night before cooking, beer is a necessary ingredient…), I located a reasonably simple recipe on Epicurious. Late Wednesday night, after closing the Wine Bar, I stirred up a triple batch of the recipe and went to sleep with a clear plan – and conscience.

After school, I hit up the store for a medium sized jar of Nutella and, upon arriving home, immediately got busy heating up two nonstick sauté pans. I brushed the hot pans with melted butter and got into the rhythm of working two pans, while also peeling and chopping a few apples to cook with brown sugar and cinnamon for an alternate filling.image

The process was satisfyingly quick. In barely an hour, I had approximately 40 filled crepes, divided into two dishes with about twice as many Nutella ones than apple. I dusted the crepes with powdered sugar and we were on our way.

The event (and the crepes) was fantastic. The number of nations represented on the incredibly laden tables was mirrored by the audience in the multifunction room. The smells and flavors were rich in a way completely unrelated to any world currency. It was positively heady. I am so lucky to live in a city where my children have the opportunity to attend school with such a culturally diverse population. C’est magnifique!DSC_0004

 

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Filed under Albany, Boys, Cooking, Education, Events, family, Food, Local, Recipes, Schools

Reflections of Disney

DSC_0188Well, we survived our theme park adventures relatively unscathed.  Quinn has a bit of a cold he picked up as a souvenir, along with the small tower of maps, used tickets and a Disney-esque handbook and completed passport.  He wore his new Mickey Mouse shirt yesterday and absolutely rocked it.  Good boy, good trip, good memories.

The past couple of times we’ve gone to Orlando, we’ve rented an offsite condo.  If you’re on a budget, it truly is the way to go, in my opinion. For just under $400 we had a one bedroom, second story unit in a resort approximately 15 minutes from Disney World.  There was a nice pool area, washer and dryer in the unit, a full kitchen and sleeping accommodations for 4.  I’ve been lucky using Craigslist for this sort of thing but, of course,  I always check reviews and feedback before committing.  This experience was really positive and I wouldn’t hesitate to book it again.

During past visits to Disney, I remember being put off by the expense of food and merchandise.  I don’t really know what’s changed (perhaps traveling with only 1 child rather than 3?), but things didn’t seem too outrageously priced to me this time around.  We generally ate breakfast at “home” and went with a late lunch at whichever park we happened to be in.  I usually got a decent salad for about $8 and Quinn dominated chicken tenders wherever we went.  We actually had a sit down meal in “China” while in Epcot and that was our biggest indulgence at $53, sans alcohol.  The quality of the food was better than decent but less than stellar.  I think Disney knows their market.
DSC_0035Here’s the thing about Disney – it pretty damn expensive.  Two days of park hopping set me back nearly $500 and that was with Quinn still considered a child at nine-years of age.  But…once you’re in, there are no additional charges for entertainment or rides.  We went to Universal for a day and their “fast pass” system comes with a hefty additional fee, while Disney’s is included with your admission.  The employees/ cast members were, with only one exception (yeah, you Ms. Norway),  were helpful and friendly, the bathrooms were clean and well stocked and there were plenty of spots to escape the heat of the day.  I do think they should consider a new attraction, though, something I’m calling the Cat Napper.  The way I envision it is a boat ride a la It’s a Small World, but silent and dark with individual reclining seats and eye masks scented with lavender.  It will last 20 minutes and will only be available to adults 25+. Build that, Disney World, and I won’t hesitate to come back again in August.

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Filed under Boys, family, Recommendations, Summer, travel, vacation

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

Haunted Disney

imageYesterday was a long day. I mean like really long. Quinn and I did a 12-hour marathon tour of Disney beginning with the Magic Kingdom, hopping over to Epcot and then finishing our night back at the Magic Kingdom. We had fun even though the unrelenting sun began to make me feel like I was literally being baked by about 4:00.

I think I’ve done the Disney thing about 5 or 6 times. The composition of each of those visits has been different – with a friend and her family, with one child, my husband and his mother, with two children and my husband, etc. I don’t think two trips have been the same.

It’s impossible to walk around the park without encountering memories from past visits. There was the time Liam melted down on It’s a Small World because the stimulation overwhelmed his senses and his Dad had to hold him down. A favorite family* story to retell is about Griffin’s freak out on Splash Mountain when I had to hold him with all of my might to prevent him from climbing out of the log flume in terror. When the ride came to a stop, the first thing he said in a normal tone was “Can we do that again?” I don’t think so.

Yesterday confirmed for me that Quinn really doesn’t like rides – and I’m okay with that. We stuck to the tame stuff, not venturing anywhere near Space Mountain or that runaway railroad. We rode the carousel together and in my mind’s eye, I saw one of the few photos of myself from a previous trip. The nearby Dumbo ride immediately conjured an image of Liam and his Dad aloft. Good memories.

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Mid-afternoon we caught the monorail to Epcot and that’s where he really shined. We went directly to the World Showcase and Quinn traveled around collecting stamps for his passport. Liam had displayed the same enthusiasm during one of our times there and I could picture him, passport in hand.  I could almost taste the margaritas in Mexico, remembered from a previous trip, along with England’s fish and chips. I finally indulged myself in Germany, or Deutschland as Quinn likes to say, with an incredibly refreshing wheat beer flavored with grapefruit. I won’t forget that taste soon.

Around 7:30, as the skies began to darken with an impending shower, we returned to the Magic Kingdom. We were traveling against the tide as people made a dash for their cars before the skies opened up. I remembered being caught in a downpour years ago and smiled knowing I had packed plastic bags to protect my camera, a lesson learned that long ago day. We got a little wet, but the last hours of our day were the most comfortable temperature-wise. The lines were short and we quickly hit three more attractions before the fireworks commenced. Naturally, one was the Haunted Mansion.  Quinn loved it.

*I say “family” because that’s what we’ll always be.  Divorce changes it, but certainly doesn’t end it.

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Filed under Boys, family, travel, vacation

Travel school

The first time I went to Florida was in 1983. I was 17 and we drove in a Winnebago, leaving New York on Christmas Day. I think we were in Maryland before the ice on the driver’s window thawed enough for the driver, my friend’s dad, to be able pay tolls without having to open the door.

The drive south was all new to me – the slow pace of the fast food workers, the miles and miles of hype for South of the Border, palm trees and the gin we dipped into after we drank all of George’s Heinekens. While the weather was a bit of a disappointment, I saw so many new things it might as well have been spring. My world grew.

The flight to Florida which Quinn and I took was not his first plane trip, but it has been a few years since his last flight. The awe on his face when the plane took off was unforgettable to me and worth every penny I will spend on our Mom & me adventure. Once we landed, he was a great helper as we made our way to baggage claim and the correct carousel, retrieved our luggage, located the car rental company with whom we had reservations, checked in using their kiosk and picked a car.

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Despite the map app I used taking us a bit out of our way once we were on the highway, he remained excited and in good spirits. We decided to stop for a bite to eat, a couple of miles before we reached our hotel, and Quinn gave no argument about respecting my “no chain restaurants” policy. We came across a joint that looked promising and he had no hesitation at venturing into Andy’s Drive-in. It was classic and he soaked in the turquoise Naugahyde booths and squeeze bottle condiments along with his hot dog and milkshake. When we found ourselves needing a late afternoon pick me up the next day, Andy’s was his request.

Our hotel breakfast was buffet style and he happily made his own waffle. I encouraged him to start with only one waffle because he could always have more, but couldn’t put things back. We talked about not being wasteful and about other hotels he’d been to, the Embassy Suites in Alexandria with its fish pond being a favorite. We planned our day.

Often we return from vacation feeling heavy, like we’ve gained weight because we’ve overindulged. I’d like to think that at least some of that weightiness is the result of information and knowledge we’ve learned from our travels. Skills like navigating through an airport and along new highways, how to spot a place where the locals have been eating for almost 60 years and knowing how much is enough.  As Mohammad said: “Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you traveled.”

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Filed under Boys, travel, vacation

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

Trains, boats and buses

imageThose of you who have children know that a big part of parenting seems to revolve around  transportation. Like us, kids have places to be and must get to them. Whether it’s sports practice, school events or to social activities, we, as parents, are usually on the hook to drive them to where they need to be. At what age do we begin letting them get there on their own? What about when where they want to go is more distant than just a couple of miles away?

My oldest son has always had a remarkable sense of direction. When he was still preschool age I began to rely upon him for help while driving, asking him which way to turn. He’s always been obsessed with transportation, particularly trains, yet, as a city kid he has no interest in getting his driver’s license. I’m fine with that, trust me. Last year, on our first day in Amsterdam we bought 24 hour hop on/hop off passes for the canal boats. After we boarded the boat we consulted the map to determine which stops we should take and quickly determined we were interested in doing different things.

After a quick discussion, Liam and I decided to split up for a couple of hours. He would remain on the boat and loop back around to visit the Maritime Museum and I would get off at the next stop to troll through one of my favorite flea markets. We’d been in Amsterdam for less than 18 hours and were without cell phones, but I was confident that he could, in case of an emergency, find his way back to the hotel. I clambered off the boat and watched it depart, thinking that his Dad would be mighty pissed if this venture didn’t go well…

But, of course, it did go well. My 16 y/o and I met at the designated spot essentially on time and all was well. I was definitely a little apprehensive, but I knew I had to give him a little independence, even in the vice capital of Europe, and I didn’t regret it. You’ve got to start somewhere, right?

There have been other occasions when I’ve trusted the boys to get somewhere on their own. When Griffin was 13, I put him on the bus at the Port Authority to ride out to the Meadowlands to meet friends for a Jets game – on Thanksgiving afternoon. The ride home caused me more anxiety, particularly after my son disregarded the instructions to wait inside for me and instead was walking around 8th Avenue. We figured it out.

Liam has taken the train solo to NYC, switching lines at Poughkeepsie to arrive at Grand Central Station. Griffin’s latest triumph was making his way from Albany to the ferry dock in Woods Hole, via Boston. These forays can definitely be a little anxiety-inducing, but I know that teenagers need to learn to navigate their way through the world and I’m much more comfortable giving my kid a ticket to ride than a license to drive.  You?

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Filed under aging, Boys, family, road trips, travel