Thursday, November 17, 2011

Banff/Jasper pt 2

Well, sure enough--there WAS a draft hanging there in the drafts folder.  So, here it is in all its unedited glory.  Sheesh, at least I'm not crazy,  I knew I'd written more about that trip.

Back to Day 2--Completely forgot about Moraine Lake!

The first real hike.

We had breakfast in the room and then planned to hike Tunnel Mountain.  Sadly, there isn't a tunnel on the mountain, but there was supposed to be, thus the name.

It was a moderate hike and a good chance for Pete and me to get used to our new hiking poles.  We took a nice scenic route to get to the trailhead, stopping along the way to take in the views even from the foothills.

We stopped here on the way to the trailhead, without realizing that it was right below us and we'd end up crossing this road again to get up the mtn
The view BEFORE climbing!
 The hike was challenging enough.  We took it easy, knowing that there was a LOT more hiking coming up on this trip so no need to push it.  Everyone's shoes worked out well and I had mixed feelings about the poles.  Great to have when I wanted them and a hassle to carry around when I didn't.  Still, important to save my knees overall.

This was on the way up.
 There are a lot of signs along the route warning you not to throw anything off the sides of the mountain.  Here's why:
Just before the top, we notice this person, taking a slightly more challenging route than ours ;-)
 We made it!

And then, ofcourse, we had to climb down.  We had brought a large bag of trail mix and plenty of water but were pretty famished when we got back down.

Went into Banff for lunch and the guide book suggested the Eddie Burger Bar. Sounded like our kind of place.  Lots of good burgers, from Bison to Veggie and gluten free buns!  We ordered up and waiting for our drinks.  Then we waited some more.  Drinks came.  We waited.  And waited and-well, you get the idea.  It took over an hour to get our food.  Then, we discovered that in Canada all beef is cooked well done.  I don't mean done well, I mean dead dry as a bone done.  The prices were exorbitant and the food was beyond disappointing.  EXCEPT- for the poutine.  Amazing Canadian gravy cheese fries that almost made the wait worth it.  OMG I could live on those.

Back to the room for some hang time.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Banff Trip pt 1

This was Pete's trip.  He has long dreamed of spending time in the Canadian Rockies and it was about time we got him there.  Plus, if you want to hike on a glacier, you'd better get to it!

I'm not so much for mountains (see post on the holes in the ground trip--that's me).  Don't get me wrong, they're beautiful but then I've seen them and lose interest.  Pete is much better about going on trips that I want to take that he's not as interested in.  I am kind of a pain in the butt.  I did do better as we went along and I think it was because I just didn't care for the town of Banff and it didn't help me to enjoy the trip.  Once we got out of Banff I had a better time and was surely better to be around.  Definitely some work for me to do on myself about letting others enjoy what they enjoy while being pleasant while they do it.  :-/

Day 1 (Sept 1)
Up for an extremely early flight to Calgary.  I don't like early flights but I do enjoy having a whole day at my destination.  I forget though, that the rest of the family is then exhausted the next day and I have to deal with being someplace with snoozers.  Have to re-think this plan for future trips.

Driving through Calgary to  get to the hotel reminded me so much of Fort Worth.  It really is a cow town.  I don't know why I was surprised by this, since the stampede is a major event there.  So I was very glad that I had changed our original plan from staying the next day in Calgary and instead heading to Banff right away.

It happened to be some kind of open gallery day in Calgary, so after window shopping, especially at the Fluvog store, we tooled around the galleries munching on chocolates and chatting with the owners.  Somewhere in there we stopped at a book store.  I had forgotten all of my guide books and most of my notes (duh) and wanted to get a little book to help out my memory.  I got Frommer's Banff & the Rockies Day by Day and it was just what I needed.

The Marriott was great.  Got the room on my points and the gold level concierge lounge was terrific.  Free dinner with shrimp, pasta, plenty of veggies for Pete and dessert.  We were pretty beat and not having to go out for dinner was perfect for us.  Not all the Marriotts have a lounge, so this was my first time being spoiled and it was great!

Pete was really fascinated with this building.

The Calgary Tower, right next to our hotel.

Day 2
Breakfast in the lounge and a fairly leisurely morning before heading off to Banff.  None of us were especially interested in sight seeing in Calgary so figured we'd head out into the mountains.

Got to Banff in the afternoon and bought a 6 day pass, as advised by the staffer at the gate to the park.  Canadian National Parks are very different from the US parks (at least the ones I've seen so far).  There is a town site inside the park with shops and homes.  Hotels are outrageously expensive, the park service doesn't oversee pricing at all.  So it was strange to pay to enter the park but then feel like I was driving into a resort town.

I think we checked into the hotel first.  The Banff Rocky Mountain Resort.  Just what we wanted.  Out of the bustle of town and a surprisingly large room with a fridge and free wifi.  We basically dropped our stuff and headed into town to stop in at the visitors center and grab lunch.

The visitors center was nice and we got some good advice on how to handle bears, which freaked Zack out a bit, but not as much info or advice on moderate trails to try.  Good thing we had researched in our guide books before getting there and I picked up my little Frommer's book.

To the Coyotes Grill for lunch. Great food but over the moon prices--we THOUGHT, that was before all the other mediocre meals we had during the rest of the trip, all at exorbitant prices.  We decided it would be a good idea to stop in at a grocery store and pick up breakfast, lunch and snack supplies.  We did this at some point, but have waited too long after the trip to write this and I've forgotten a lot of the details.

We headed back to the room after lunch where everyone (but me) fell asleep and slugged around for the rest of the day.  See, this is where the early morning flight of the day before backfired on me. I was antsy and eager to go see stuff, but I begrudgingly yielded to the will of the rest of the family.

 Up and back to Banff townsite for dinner.  Pete found a really reasonable place that served sushi and large bowls of soup.  The waitress brought my late-in-coming soup with a wonderful sing song of thank you for waiting won ton sou-oup!  Which made us all smile.

I think it was as we stepped out of the room to go to dinner, we noticed a few people standing outside our door and realized they had spotted some deer across the street.  We all ran over to grab some photos of our first wildlife encounter!

OK, it's possible this happened the next day, but I don't think so...

Next Up--Day 3

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Catching Up-a 4 month update this time

So when last I wrote, we were somewhere into June at Zack's birthday party.

1/2 June
Katie and Zack were invited to a friend's Bar Mitzva and I was glad they had a chance to see what they are like and to celebrate that accomplishment with a friend they've known since kindergarten. Zack needed to wear a tie to the ceremony and he wore one that we saved from Grandpa E's collection.

Zack gets some tie tips from dad

All Dressed Up

No pictures but we went to see Wicked at the Kennedy Center.  Had to buy the tkts in February and very glad that I did.  It was wonderful.  Zack didn't love the height of our seats (2nd mezz) but still managed to enjoy the show.

Katie and I braved the opening day of the American Girl store in Tyson's.  Mad House.  But, I happened to make reservations for lunch at their cafe and that jumped us ahead of the line so we could make our seating.  Lucky!

Went to NC to see Grandma E.  Discovered a new rainy day option right next to the movie theatre.  A game center with laser tag and vid games.  Nice, but could have used more kids to do the tag with.  Will try 1/2 price night next time.

Was also able to see my dear friend Heatherann and her daughter Noel.  So fun!

Great time at the beach and lunch at mom's. (Thanks mom!)

Home for a couple of days before G&G N came to our place for a visit.  Careful planning had professional house cleaners come as soon as we got home. Nice!

We took them to the Nat'l Mall for the Folk Life Festival which was great this year!

Katie, Grandma and Pete enjoyed dancing.  I did a bit too.  Grandpa took pictures and Zack sat and watched while being mortally embarrassed--bonus!

Zack tried his hand at spinning a top under Grandpa's careful watch.  He did pretty well.

Well, July was rolling out in a mellow fashion UNTIL....

Zack stepped on a needle in the basement.  It went all the way into his foot.  First a trip to the ER where a completely bone-headed Dr tried to remove it very far from where it went in.  Next to the podiatrist who tried to remove it in the right place but couldn't reach it.  Next-Fairfax Hospital for out-patient surgery.

THEN-the doctor thought he saw an infection, so we admitted him to the hospital and he stayed for 3 nights (or was it 4?)!  It was a pain for us, but ultimately pretty fun for Zack--lots of dvds to watch (we had a LOTR marathon), smoothies, snacks and meals delivered to the room.  Not bad, and gave me a lot of gratitude that we had nothing serious going on.  It was not the same experience for many other families on the pediatrics floor.
Loved these little cans of Coke at the hospital!

In the meantime, Katie had her very belated birthday party at the American Girl store.  She had a lot of fun and the girls came back tot he house for a sleep over and movie night.

The rest of July was taken up with Zack getting to follow up appointments, staying off his feet and getting up on crutches.  Boring, but Katie was very good about the fact that we couldn't do much--and also made sure to get all her sewing stuff up off the basement floor!

Early in August the kids and Liz headed to LI for a family reunion.  We stayed at my cousin's in NJ the first night, but unfortunately didn't get to see her there.   Great that she was heading for the reunion too so we had plenty of time to catch up (esp since neither of us really know all the cousins very well).  On our way to LI the kids and I stopped off at Coney Island, which the kids had never been to and I hadn't been in about 20 years.

We were short on time, so it seemed the best choice was to get Zack a wheelchair to whip around the aquarium.

 Katie enjoyed being chauffeur for the day.

 Wish we'd had more time on the boardwalk but we did find time for some dogs from Nathan's.

Originally rain forecast for the reunion, but it turned out to be a fine day.  Nice to see Aunt Louise and everyone else.  Extra time with the fam at Phil and Carrie's was especially nice too.

Our last day on the Island, I was able to coordinate getting together with my cousin Linda and her kids and dear childhood friend (like how I didn't use the word old) Allison and her son at Oyster Bay.  We sat on the beach and chatted while the kids ran around.  Allison and Linda hit it off and all the kids got along too.  Later we tried kayacking and stand up paddling (SUPing) until a rainstorm cut the day short.  So fun though and gave me enough time to get back to NJ for one more night before getting too tired.

Should also mention that Pete's band, The Jet Age, was recording their new album and the songs are great!

Took it easy for the rest of August giving Zack's foot a break in preparation for our hiking trip to Banff and Jasper NP in Alberta Canada.  More on that trip in the next post. So, on to....

We got back from Banff on Sept 10 and then launched into school.  By the end of the month, we were set up with our fall schedule:
Monday--Art class for Katie or Science for K&Z
Tuesday--Park Day, which we tend to skip if the weather isn't just right
Wednesday--Skating or Girl Scouts for K
Thursday--Coop for unit studies (currently Eco subjects)
Friday--Teen group--park days, field trips, etc.
Then there's daily Algebra, Italian, writing and whatever else we think of.

Our Thurs group went to the Solar Decathlon where Katie and Zack helped power a house with their foil hats:

And here we are in....

Halloween planning is underway and we have hit a corn maze and, tomorrow, Cox Farm with the teens.  I thought we were done with Cox but now that a group will be going it should be fun for the kids again. (We stopped going on our own when we went and it was all preschoolers and my two 9 year olds.)  The Ren Faire will be this weekend.

Katie and Zack also started their OWL class at UUCA and are bonding with that group again.  Zack had a short stint in a Japanese Swordsmanship class but it wasn't for him and I was glad to give up a Sunday night class.

The weather is turning chilly and the leaves are beginning to change and fall.  I am hiding my eyes to avoid the Christmas displays already appearing.  What's the rush?  And I think that is going to be the theme of this school year.  Slow down, balance and take it easy.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

The half-yearly update

I always plan to regularly update the blog, but never quite get to it.  So, here's a bit of what we've been up to the past 6 months.

Another new year, which we rang in at home with my mom.  We are fairly boring folks for NYE, but we had a nice fish dinner, watched the ball drop and had some sparkling cider.  Katie and Zack stayed up right until midnight, I think for the first time, and then we were all tucked in by 12:30am!

We started the year with our regular routine of math (Teaching Textbooks pre-algebra), Italian (Rosetta Stone), handwriting and chores twice a week (although the kids are dismayed that daily making of beds, doing laundry and dealing with the trash don't fall under Mon/Fri chores).  Katie continued Girl Scouts, a Warrior Cat Club and art classes. Zack started an historical sword fighting class, which he really enjoyed and we will be looking for more swordplay opportunities for fall.  He continued Tae Kwon Do and both kids went skating on the weeks Katie did not have GS.

We also attended Virginia Tech's Kid's Tech classes once a month from Jan-April. This was a great program and took some of the mystery of college away.  Our favorite travel companions, Jeannie and Johno, were also going so we shared hotel and travel expenses and it also made the travel more fun.

The first session was in late Jan.  Sadly both Katie and Zack got headcolds once we got there, and had a hard time fully enjoying the activities.  We did enjoy trying fried pickles at dinner.

February... a blur.  I know we ran around a lot and my birthday came and went.  We went to VA Tech the end of the month.  We went back down to VaTech.  This time just Katie was sick but still managed to have an OK time.  What bad luck to be sick again!

Kids and I off to see mom in FL where she took a condo for a few months.  We apparently hit the only spate of cold, nasty, weather for the entire time she was there, but we still had a great time. I brought my new camera to try out on the trip.  Ofcourse, Zack and I had finally caught the bug Katie had at Tech, so we took it even more easy.

Here's Zack at the entrance to a nature center in Jupiter, FL (you can also see me).

Here's Katie with the bald eagles.

 We also went to Boynton Beach to visit my friend Nancy.  Here's a pose with her local Buddha.
 We went to a nature reserve with Nancy as well and saw lots of birds including babies in giant nests.  Their long-legged mothers looked strange hanging around in trees.

The kids and I went to a turtle sanctuary and saw many turtles.  Most of those pictures are still on my phone but here's one of Katie joining the demo show in the role of sea turtle:

Most days were too cold and windy for really swimming at the beach, but we did go for a windy walk one afternoon.  Katie was shocked at the number of shells out there.  She could just scoop up handfuls and easily found enough to bring one home for each of her fellow Girl Scouts and other friends with plenty left for her own collection.

These are from the one day warm enough to really hang at the beach:

We also climbed a lighthouse, which was fun, if a little scary!  We did all manage to walk all the way around the outside deck and wave to grandma, who waited for us below.  Quite a work out mounting the stairs too. 

Later in March was the VaHomeschoolers Conference and Resource Fair. I was the vendor chair and had to attend down near Richmond.  It just so happened that it was the same weekend as VA Tech, so Jeannie kindly agreed to take K&Z with her.  I don't think anyone got sick this time!

The conference was great and quite a high mark for me to reach for next year, when I'll be coordinating the whole thing.  Yikes!

At some point, I think in March, there was an extremely big moon.  Didn't know how to use my camera well enough but got one decent shot:

Two weeks after the March VaTech program was the April program, due to Easter at the end of the month.  Since it was the last, Pete came along and we made it a weekend trip as well.  We stopped at Natural Bridge on the way down there.  Neat place, very cheesy tourist trappy but with this great natural phenom.
Natural Bridge

Pete at Natural Bridge

In the cave at natural bridge. Small cave but interesting

I absolutely LOVE wax museums, the cornier the BETTER.  Second only to sculptures made of butter.  I knew when the first display of what was supposed to be a show about American history was the Garden of Eden that there had to be a wax last supper and I was not disappointed. I have never seen an actual butter last supper, but someday I hope to!
The Wax museum at Natural Bridge--yes! had the last supper all in wax!

The last Kids' Tech and I think these were some of the best hands-on programs of the whole series.  Getting to hold chickies was a highlight for the kids, maybe not so much for the chickies.

On the way home we stopped at Monticello.  It was chilly that morning and we weren't dressed for the weather, so it wasn't as fun as it could have been.  We also didn't have as much time as I would have liked, but still it was quite nice.  Here's the kids in the cellar, it really wasn't a jail cell but they insisted on this picture.

I loved this tree on the grounds.

I was on this trip but so far no pictures of me.  I think there may be some on Pete's phone.

Katie went on a camping trip in PA where she got to rappel down into a cave (how cool is that?) and survived incredibly cold, windy, rainy weather.  She also got to see  Frank Lloyd Wright's house Falling Waters which was nearby. Lots of bonding with the other Girl Scouts who attended.

Then we arrived at the run up to Easter.  We headed down to NC to leave the kids and dog with my mom.  Pete and I stayed there for a day then headed to Asheville, which we've been meaning to get to for years.  Loved it!  Pete needed the vacation-he had been putting in long hours at work for weeks.

I was fascinated with this building in Asheville, which I thought looked just like the Tower of Terror in Disney.  Don't you think so?

We also stayed near this kitschy motel. 

Just by luck, we met up with my cousin Jayne and her husband Donald and got to see their almost finished house.  So nice and wonderful to see them and catch up!

Spent Easter at mom's and baskets magically arrived for the kids.  They were disappointed at the lack of an egg hunt, so at the last minute it seems that our real colored eggs were dispersed around the house along with some cash.  Nice!

In May, Zack and I agreed that he would take some time off of Tae Kwon Do to see what his commitment level really was.  It has seemed to me to be not much more than a high-priced play date.  We made a plan to attend as many HS park days where he could meet up with his TKD friends and see if that would do instead.  The jury is still out and we've extended the break through June and I'm guessing through the summer.

I requested a flowering tree for Mother's Day and here are Katie and Zack with the newly planted pear tree.  Maybe a partridge will show up in Dec...

Katie enjoyed a big service unit encampment with her troop and, although it rained again, the weather was MUCH better than the last trip.  The ticks were worse and we did quite a few checks afterward.

The ticks have been unbelievable this year.  The dog brings one in on his fur at least once a week.  So we are trying to be vigilant about checking for them.

Katie and Zack turned 13!  Crazy!  Two teens in the house.  We had a family celebration and went out to Mike's American for dinner.  They will both have parties later.

We had a nice, wonderful, unscheduled Memorial Day.  Did some yard work, hung around, tried a new restaurant.  Lovely.

Have tried to make an effort to under schedule June.  Mixed results so far.  Pete had a big, late-night gig last night with The Jet Age.  Zack had his birthday party today and now has his two best buds over for the night.  Am hoping I can sleep through their party.

And so, almost half of 2011 has sped by.  I hope to keep up better for the second half of the year, so check back some time.