Tag Archives: vacation

California Vacation

It’s been a while, eh?

This has been the longest stretch between posts since I started this tiny venture back in 2010.

Why the 3-week lull you ask? Great question. Here’s a detailed break-out of the causes:

41% – Life getting in the way

19% – Writing malaise

17% – My laptop has issues with uploading photos

15% – Garden malaise

08% – A one week vacation in California

Don’t bother doing the math, it adds up. I’m a stickler for math … and odd numbers.

Thank you to those of you who reached out with concern. Your emails put a big smile on this new-to-45-year old’s face. They are without question the most rewarding aspect of this writing gig. People actually missing my writing is all I could ever ask for. Seriously.

For today, I want to share our recent California vacation with you all and fortunately I’m able to load photos from my phone while the laptop is still under construction.

Enjoy.


It all started at Newark Airport in NJ where we willingly paid a premium to order and pay for lunch from an iPad. Kind of pathetic now that I think about it with a clear mind and not in vacation mode.

We arrived in San Francisco late that first night but made sure to find time to scope out a local “In-N-Out Burger”. It was our first trek there and I have to admit, it was just “good”. I can do without the half hour waits and chaotic parking lots. Shake Shack is still the king of the burger. Sorry left-coasters.

Still, the moment wasn’t lost on us as we took the ever important selfie to commemorate the occasion. Notice my son is missing from the pic. He is down on selfies these days.

The next day was a busy one. First up was an attempt to drive through the campus of Stanford University. That kind of bombed as there was a local high school graduation being held on campus and we got caught in the parade of traffic and over anxious parents and grandparents.

The next stop was much more successful. We took the 1-mile hike through Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park to consume the giant redwood trees. While the park and trees were visually stunning, I’m still consumed with the scent. I may have a deviated septum with little use of my olfactory sense, but this smell punched right through that damaged septum.

A redwood candle order has been placed via Amazon Prime.

From there we made our way to the Santa Cruz boardwalk. The contrast in mood and vibe with the aforementioned redwoods wasn’t lost on us. It was chaotic and loud and sensory overload.

Also a lot of fun in that deliciously cheesy summer boardwalk way.

My son still has no idea that the photo above was taken. Dad for the win.

After a few hours riding roller coasters and eating Thai chicken wraps, we drove the world-famous “17-Mile Drive” along the coast.

Wow. Gorgeous x 10.

We stepped out of the car at least 7 times with only one of those requiring sneaking around a golf course so I could empty my ever shrinking bladder.

The first full day ended with dinner in Carmel and the inevitable collective crash in our hotel room that night in Monterey.

The next two days were spent in Yosemite National Park. I won’t bore you with the written word because words and even photos will never do it justice. It was overwhelming in a good way. I’ve never experienced anything like it. That either means I need to get out more or Yosemite is all that it’s cracked up to be.

My crippling fear of heights was tested over and over not only within the park, but the drive to and from each day. My wife had to console me with gentle words and warnings to not look right or left. I’m thinking guard rails might be a nice addition to some of these harrowing roads.

The last 3-4 days were spent in the city of San Francisco. I was thrilled to get rid of the car and be at the mercy of buses, trains, trolleys and Uber rides.

Here are a few pics from out and about.

I can’t get enough of the Haight-Ashbury district and some day hope to spend some significant time here even if it is a shell of what it used to be.

My daughter is obsessed with the show “Full House” so we had to get a shot of her in front of “The Painted Ladies” which are included in the intro song for the show. By the way, the show is terrible other than the fact that it has the nostalgia of terribly written dialogue and laugh tracks. I hope she doesn’t read this.

When in San Fran, one must ride a trolley. It’s a lot easier when you have a pretty lady on your arm.

Plenty of interaction with that little bridge known as Golden Gate.

 

Alcatraz, that foreboding island that once housed some of the world’s worst criminals. While the history is fascinating and the tour is engaging, I didn’t need to see it again after having been there back in 2000.

So in a brutally selfish way, I ignored everyone and focused on the gardens of Alcatraz Island instead.

And finally, it wouldn’t be a Markowski trip without baseball playing some role so we capped our trip with a Friday night game at AT&T Park (my now personal favorite ballpark) watching the San Francsico Giants play … you guessed it … our New York Mets.

The Mets won easily and broke our streak of, witnessing in person, ten straight Mets losses.

It sucks to be back on the East Coast again and it’s great to be home.

26 observations from my 20th wedding anniversary trip to Antigua

My wife and I just returned from our 20th wedding anniversary trip to the island of Antigua. We expected it to be a romantic and relaxing and all time memorable trip … and it exceeded those lofty expectations and then some.

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Rather than write up a summary of the trip and potentially bore you to tears, I decided to write up the highlights in list form for ease of consumption.

If you are interested, and why the hell wouldn’t you be, we stayed here.

And had the anniversary drinks/dinner here. Yes, on a daybed and on the side of a cliff while watching the sunset.

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We’re still reveling in it all.

On to the list.


In no particular order:

  • Driving on the wrong side of the road (the left, sorry Brit friends) is challenging and fun. As is navigating around wild dogs and crater sized potholes. I found if I talked aloud about my next driving move, I was OK. “I’m making a left turn, don’t have to worry about oncoming traffic and will stay to the left after the turn.”

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  • I understand that vacation is a mirage and an escape from everyday life, but I like to think it removes all of life’s distractions and exposes the core of what brought you together as a couple in the first place. Our core is killer. Beyond what I ever imagined was possible as a wee young lad. I will not take that for granted. Ever.
  • Pineapple juice wins over orange juice every time. Why did it take me so long to recognize this? Oh, the quality of the pineapple makes all the difference you say? Got it.
  • My wife living in the upper northern hemisphere is akin to me growing bamboo in rural New Jersey. Neither resides in their native habitat and while we are knee deep in the native plant movement, maybe I need to initiate a move to get her back to her Mediterranean roots. Warm weather calls us. I just need to come up with a title for this movement.
  • The men in Antigua appeared to be way more friendly and engaging than the women. I wonder if that is cultural?
  • I am in the process of commissioning an artist to create a mural on our bedroom ceiling that simulates the view we had from our bed each morning.

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  • I reluctantly joined the fashion trend in wearing a shorter bathing suit and while I looked phenomenal and fit right in, I burned the shit out of my upper thigh which hadn’t seen the sun in decades.
  • Magical is an overused term and should be reserved for those moments that are truly magical by definition. Having said that, we experienced many of those magical times.
  • I am by nature, a non-explorer, so the day spent meandering through the windy and rainy and oft times terrifying roads of Antigua was a reach for me. An exciting and hilarious reach on a day we will never forget. Vasco de Markowski.

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  • She’ll never admit it, but my wife could be a travel agent and vacation planner solely off the top of her head. Her ability to research is off the charts. From packing to flying to driving to meal planning to excursions to best local options to you name it, she had it covered. Her hourly rate is reasonable. I did zero.
  • $32.00 for a hamburger. You read that right. I’m not sure if that price included cheese or not.
  • I may or may not have flashed my passport like an international man of mystery while walking through the airport. And I did get giddy each time it was stamped.
  • Afternoon tea must be incorporated into the Markowski household. With clotted cream and scones. And a British accent.

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  • I had no idea that an Eastern Caribbean time zone existed. I still can’t grasp that we were operating at an hour later than NJ time. I’m so sheltered.
  • I may need to revisit my self-imposed ban on bathrobes. Holy comfort.
  • Give me Tetris and Bejeweled on the headrest TV screen on the plane and I can be entertained for hours.
  • I’m convinced that I could be the social media lead for a resort and be kick ass at it. The scenery sells itself and there is no excuse for not posting at least 5 Instagram photos per day. It is free advertising.

The pool at Carlisle Bay, Antigua. #carlislebay #carlislebayantigua #antigua #pool #caribbean #sun #escape

A photo posted by john markowski (@jmarkowski0) on

  • Tropical plants are a foreign concept to me and someday I’d love to invest a significant amount of time in learning all about them.

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  • I think it is a good sign that we both had tears in our eyes as we exited the resort.
  • I think it is important that the kids observe their parents enjoying time alone as a husband and wife. They should know that we missed them and didn’t miss them at all.
  • At the same time, it was fun to virtually share our experience with them via Snapchat and Instagram.

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  • One of the things I miss most already was the walk to breakfast each morning. Holding hands while walking through a palm tree lined path that lead to our eating feet from the beach with the entire day still in front of us. It was intoxicating.
  • antigua-3antigua-2Holding hands is way underrated.
  • Our idea of “water sports” consisted of trying to pick up shells before they were washed away from shore and giddily chasing crabs before they descended back into their holes.
  • Traveling the day after Thanksgiving is fantastic. No crowds at all. Getting to JFK airport was a dream and that has never been uttered before in the history of declarations.
  • I dog eared a book for the first time in my life while we were away. I am going to define myself as writer from this day forward. You can read more about it here. “What do you do for a living John? I’m a writer.” That feels fucking great.

Weekend in Connecticut

We spent a long weekend in Connecticut after being off from work all last week. Now we return to reality tomorrow and I don’t like reality very much. Actually that’s not true, I feel ready to conquer the world and do some big things in the near future. But that could be the vacation vibe talking. But who cares, right? Enjoy that feeling while it still lasts, right?

Before I jump back into spreadsheets and conference calls and holistic synergies, here are some pics from the weekend.

Time spent at the family retreat at Cedar Lake in Chester, CT always does the soul well.

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I have a lot of fears in the water (thanks Mom) and thankfully my daughter didn’t inherit those genes. She jumped right in the kayak and took off around the lake. Deep breaths and a few beers got me through it.

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My wife and I were graciously granted a lunch date by our host and hostess. Before they could say “enjoy”, we were at the Madison Beach Hotel restaurant, a luxurious hotel housed right on the Long Island Sound.

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Of course oysters …

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Followed by beach selfies with my one and only.

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On our way to the beach at Watch Hill, RI we stopped at a legendary italian ice joint, Vecchittos Italian Ice in Middletown, CT. Beyond delish and easily the best I’ve ever had.

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When in Watch Hill, RI one must pose for pics near the Ocean House. I wrote about this grand hotel a few years ago (you can read it here) and we are still in awe each time we see it.

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Once on the public beach in Watch Hill, the kids attacked the ocean and stayed in for hours, no exaggeration.

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I could go on and on about how well we were treated by all family this weekend, but you don’t know them and I need to protect their identity so only WE can enjoy it for years to come. Just know I ate Belgian Waffles for three mornings straight and never wanted for a single beverage.

And last but not least, the return to the garden. Always a consolation prize after returning from vacation.

Still plenty of blooms …

coneflowers and be susan

 

… but it is clear that the grasses have announced their arrival. It is their time to take center stage. Expect them dominate on this blog for weeks to come.

planter bed

 

karl foerster bee balm

 

panicum joe pye tomato cages

 

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QOTD – have you ever dreamed up a big idea or made a life change decision while on vacation? If so, would you be so kind as to share the experience? I think I’ve got one but it will be a secret until it comes to fruition.

Receiving therapy in Vermont

If I asked you “When are the two best times to visit Vermont?”, what would you say? I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest it is “Fall Foliage” season and “Skiing” season, am I right? If I think this through, that most likely covers all of October for foliage and then maybe the last two weeks of November through early May for skiing, correct? And you really can’t go wrong the remainder of May through September either as summer in Vermont is kind of gorgeous as well.

So only a visit during the small window of the first few weeks in November would be kind of silly, right? A dead zone if you will. If I apply some math to this we are looking at a 49/52 or 94.2% chance that your visit to Vermont is going to be all sorts of awesome.

Well not for this non-foliage enjoying and non-skiing brood. That is not how we roll. Give us a small window of nothing going on and we are so there. This past weekend we apparently arrived in Vermont during the peak “brown foliage”time or “stick season” as we came to learn from the locals.

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Truth be told, our 4 day trip to Stratton, Vermont was phenomenal. Even the post-peak foliage season is stunning.

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equinox pond

We have friends who recently purchased a townhouse in Stratton and even if they were initially all like “Seriously, you want to visit us now?” they were still gracious enough to host us non-skiers without hesitation.

Speaking of non-skiing … I had some unresolved issues with skiing that bubbled to the surface this weekend and I’m proud to say I kind of think I worked through them.

Some necessary background:

During my senior year of high school, I joined the ski club. I had yet to ski at that point in my life, but thought joining the group would:

a)look good on the high school resume (don’t ask)

b)provide an opportunity to do something I had never attempted before

c)be a fun hang/social opp.

Makes sense right? Well it turns out I never had the chance to take advantage of the experience.

Since I was on the high school varsity basketball team during the winter sport season, we were not allowed to ski, at all, for fear of sustaining an injury. Now shockingly, none of us when on to basketball stardom in the NBA, let alone the NCAA, but that was the rule and we had no choice but to abide. That included #50, power forward extraordinaire.

basketball

Still, I was not happy.

It all came to a head one Friday night in January, 1990 when we had a basketball game against our rival, Waldwick High School, which coincided with the one huge ski trip for the ski club. As an immature yet awesomely mulletted 17 year old, I was super pissed off. I was missing the social event of the year. A chance to chill with the ladies … OK, “chill” may not be the right word since I had less than zero game, more like a chance to hang in the vicinity of the ladies and hang with my boys. But no, basketball was apparently more important.

By tip-off of our game, we had like 10 fans in the crowd. Our home court was filled with the visiting team’s fans and my anger level reached an all time high. It was my senior year dammit and not only was I missing a friggin life changing event, but our last rival game was going to suck as well. The woes of a teenager.

The suckage level peaked even higher when the scoreboard clock read “0:00”. I remember it like it was yesterday. We had what was supposed to be an insurmountable lead at 51-39 with 3 minutes remaining in the game. Somehow we managed to not score again. We ended up losing 52-51 when their point guard literally fell backwards at the foul line and threw up a desperation two handed overhead shot that somehow managed to go in. The crowd went berserk, on our home court, and I was f’n crushed.

I carried that anger for a long time after the game had ended. And I took it out on all of the “skiers”. Just the sight of a ski tag on a CB jacket pissed me off.

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Because truth be told, I always envied/was annoyed by those who skied. There was a coolness factor that came with skiing and since I fell towards the other end of the cool spectrum, I was easily annoyed at anything close to “cool”. Without ever giving it a whirl, I knew I would fail miserably at skiing. Leg coordination was not my thing. One attempt at surfing and I knew to stay away from the leg/feet sports. To this day, I have no ability to kick a soccer ball.

Ski trips/vacations also always held this special luster in my mind.

“We’re going to Vail this weekend. We’ll ski all day and hang in the lodge at night.”

That sounded uppity and a place where all the cool kids would hang out. Even after that was done, you could wear your ski tags all winter on your jacket and people would look at it like a badge of honor.

“Where did you go? Aspen, right on bro, we just got back from Killington.”

Even the ski locales had sick names.

So you combine my skier jealousy with the fact that skiing deeply impacted the most important basketball game of my career and I can see why I subconsciously avoided a visit to Vermont during its best time of year. Who knew there was a psychological aspect  of “skiing avoidance”? I think I just invented it.

But I’m proud to say I may be over it after this weekend. Thank you J & A for the therapy session. And yes, it is OK that you are all avid skiers. And that your 6 year old son is not only more athletic than me, but can no doubt ski circles around me. I can accept that now.

Thank you for selling our family on the benefits of snowshoeing and tubing. While I may feel like the kid who can’t leave the shallow end of the pool, it is progress. Hopefully my kids will avoid the dreaded ski envy and join you all one day. Maybe I will even set foot on the slopes … and get to wear kick ass looking goggles and get a ski lift ticket of my own.

One can dream.

Some other ditties from the weekend:

  • I love a saloon. I love the term and the connotation. We went to one for dinner on Saturday night and it rocked. Local, pretension free and solid food and drink. This was not a bar, it was a saloon. Very different in concept. The only things missing were a set of swinging doors upon entering.

saloon-doors-adam-burn

And the patrons staring at us with that “You ain’t from these parts” look.

Also, a shot tossed down the bar from the bartender would have been a nice touch.

  • Kids loving hanging in bars. At least that is what we learned as our collective four children loved playing pool and feeding quarters into the jukebox while the four adults enjoyed quiet dinners sans children. I think we could agree this wasn’t a parenting highlight, but it is amazing how much easier it is to justify a decision when you have other parents involved in the decision making process. It’s as if we each said to ourselves “Well, if ‘blank’ says it is OK and we kind of trust their judgment then it must be OK.”
  • Vermont makes the greatest beer. This is now my new favorite beer in existence.

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  • I have crossed that threshold where any physical activity has a 90% probability rating that it will result in injury. The kids planned, practiced and obsessed over a football game against the adults. In the past, this was a fun charade where, because we are nurturing parents, we allowed the kids to win without them realizing it. However, within 2 minutes of this football game, we realized times, they are a changin’. The kids were smart enough to implement a “wear the dads out” game plan that was genius. We were quickly down 21-0 when I decided to temporarily put them in their place. I returned a kickoff for a touchdown prancing along the way like a young Deion Sanders. That is if Deion had just about ripped his groin apart and couldn’t really walk right the remainder of the weekend.
  • I’d be plenty fine with hitting the “pause” button on the aging process for all of the kids right now.

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kids path

jamie parker

riley

jack jamie

Tune in next time when my family visits Washington DC right before the cherry trees are in bloom and then as we head on down to New Orleans the week after Mardi Gras.

 

Our Christmas vacation

It all kicked off with a baking marathon and the kids were happy to take part.

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Our 2nd annual Christmas Eve/Eve dinner at “Inn of the Hawke” in Lambertville, NJ was another smashing success.

Xmas eve, eve dinner #Christmas #NJ #Lambertville #InnoftheHawke

A photo posted by john markowski (@jmarkowski0) on

 

A side note: most of our “traditions” are the result of a change to our original plans in which the kids go screaming and kicking against their will. However, the plan change ends up being “awesome” and a new tradition is born. Of course they never remember not wanting to do it in the first place.

One tradition we’ve maintained for a decade now is the reading of “The Night Before Christmas” on Christmas Eve. They will never get too old for it … I hope.

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Some day soon this will end and it will break our collective hearts.

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The calm before the Christmas day storm.

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Can I hit pause for a few years?

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Football cards were all the rage this year … reminds me of someone else I know quite well.

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Beanie Boo’s galore.

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A lot of cousin time.

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For you coffee lovers, I cannot stress enough just how life changing this Chemex is. Seriously, click the link and never look back. My wife knows me oh so well.

Check this out. Guess who is going to be a guest DJ for an hour? What do you think, an hour of garden themed music? Or maybe half talk and half music?

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So for a week now, we have run around like mad, chilled out, visited with friends and family, hit up the movie theater, eaten cookies for breakfast, chilled out some more and I even found some time to visit my lonely winter garden.

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And chase the herd of deer away. Nothing to see here.

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Here’s to 2015 my friends.

No resolutions for me this year. I want each day to proceed slowly. I refuse to wish time away.

Enjoy.

 

Our vacation

We just returned from a week’s vacation in both Cape May, NJ and Virginia Beach, VA.

Here’s what went down:

The weather was ominous to start the week but when we arrived at our hotel in Cape May – Congress Hall – we dumped our bags and made it onto the beach:

That night it was raw oysters and mega amounts of seafood:

And some beverages for the adults:

More beach time:

And maybe one of us slipped away to check out the grounds of the hotel in greater detail:

The kids were so into it, I could talk them into doing anything:

We were all feeling kind of good, come to think of it:

Dude is now hooked on coffee (but decaf) just like his dad:

When you are on vacation, you eat cookies in bed:

 Our larger crew in an awesome family pic (thank you for taking random stranger):

 And in a flash, we left our temporary home:

… and prepped for the next phase of the trip:

We took the Cape May Ferry to Lewes, Delaware:

And once on land, we made a pit stop at the Dogfish Head Brewpub, aka Heaven.

I highly recommend the “Wheetle” by the way.

Momma took the keys and we drove the three hours down to Virginia Beach to stay with family.

We ate dinner directly on the Chesapeake Bay one evening and had stunning photo opportunities with the sunset:

And actually hung out under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge:

And more sunset on the beach pics:

 The remainder of the trip was all about eating, drinking and chilling in the pool … and also whiffle balls:

And getting jealous of plants I can’t grow:

And handstands:

Sucks to be back home but we have memories that will last a lifetime.

One day in New York City

We interrupt this garden blog for a story about one couple’s love for the Big Apple …

My wife and I have an annual tradition where we spend one night in New York City over the course of President’s Day Weekend. It is a gift from my parents each Christmas and something we long for each friggin long winter. We always head out that particular weekend as it is THE only weekend all fall/winter where there are no basketball games, dance classes or any other school related activities.

This past weekend was “Operation Escape the Snow, Ice, Kids and All Other Daily Responsibilities” and when all was said and done, our escape was right around 28 hours in duration. And while it cannot be classified as “sufficient”, it was still pretty kick-ass.

Here are the details:

Saturday

  • 11:30 AM – Arrive in the Tribeca section of Manhattan in yet another snow storm. The GPS indicates the hotel is 100 feet away yet we see nothing with the word “hotel” in sight. I think NYC gets off on not making things easy for visitors. It is part of the charm.
  • 12:02 PM – We pull up along side of the unmarked, legendary Tribeca Grand Hotel in the valet area that is clearly not marked. 
  • 12:15 PM – Drop the bags off because it is too early to check in. A quick glance around the lobby and I know I am not hip, young or European. Love it. 
  • 1:00 PM – Here is why NYC is the greatest place on earth. A quick Yelp search and we find a world renowned coffee shop within two blocks. The expectations are off the charts and yes, they are exceeded. La Colombe coffee is the best coffee I’ve ever had. And there was no menu. So cool.
  • 2:30 PM – Show up at Artisanal Bistro for our lunch reservation after a fun and terrifying cab ride. Here is our M.O. Eat a huge mid day lunch and then snack at night while hitting up the bars/lounges/speakeasies. Lunch lasts for two and a half hours and we eat like kings. My wife introduces me to the world of gougeres and I am a better man for it. Frites are to die for. I can’t walk and it hurts. Perfect.
  • 4:50 PM – This was the cab ride from hell. Like for realz. Worst in my lifetime. Dude had the scariest looking scowl I’ve ever seen in a mirror. And he doesn’t talk. And has orange hair. He takes us to the wrong hotel but we happily jump out and walk the remaining three blocks.
  • 6:15 PM – Power nap. First in like a decade.
  • 8:10 PM – I use Google map to give us walking directions to our first destination for the evening. It is only .4 miles away. I still screw it up as we head in the opposite direction. We both step in puddles a foot deep. It is snowing heavily and an impossible walk. Couldn’t be happier.
  • 8:30 PM – Arrive at Brandy Library. Again, no indication you have arrived other than the address. Meet the hostess and all tables upstairs are reserved. All others are filled by hipsters with cool caps and horrendous shoes. I still look all kinds of awesome in my sensible jeans and sneakers. We are taken downstairs where old people go but it still rocks. Fireplace, wooden shelves filled with all sorts of spirits. Cozy as hell. We are each given the drink “menu”, which has a Table of Contents and is no lie, eighty pages long.

        

  • 8:50 PM – $18 drinks arrive and they are worth every penny. No sarcasm. We do it once a year and why not do it big. I have no memory of what I had other than there was ginger beer and fresh ginger involved. Food was a version of sushi including egg whites and guacamole and then simple ham and cheese sandwiches, which by the way, were the best ever because of the comte cheese. My wife promises they will be duplicated and I fully trust her. My foodie wife has never let me down.
  • 10:00 PM – Arrive at B Flat after yet another frozen sojourn down the streets of lower Manhattan. Still fun when you are with your bestie. Best drink of the night had here. “Autumn Leaves” with dark rum and cinnamon.
  • 11:15 PM – Back to the hotel bar. The weather and our age and the non-stop-on-the-go the week prior have worn us down. A bunch of hummus and an Ithaca Flower Power IPA and I am good to go. We attempt some selfies with my phone and fail miserably, like twelve year olds. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else on the planet at that moment.

Sunday

  • 9:00 AM – Slept late. No call from the dog at 5:45 AM. No kids arguing over the TV. And most importantly, no headache. Heaven.
  • 11:00 AM – Check out and pay a most reasonable fee of $65 for the car to be parked overnight. That is sarcasm.
  • 11:30 AM – Arrive at Locanda Verde for brunch. This is vintage NYC in the “Village”. Hipsters, vaguely familiar local celebrities and all other walks of life all enjoying their coffee and New York Times, most reading on their phones. We have done our homework and know what to order first.                            

11:45 AM – We have finished our Sheep’s Milk Ricotta with local honey and thyme on burnt orange toast. We cannot stop talking about it and I cannot stop tweeting about and taking photos of it for Instagram. Must be top 5 best thing I’ve ever eaten. No exaggeration. Are you sensing a theme from this little trip?

12:25 PM – I cannot move after having downed an order of lemon ricotta pancakes with blueberries and lemon curd. I am now ready to take on the job of a food critic. I just want to eat my way through New York City and write about it. I will one day convince my wife to quit our jobs and team up with me to do just that. I even have a name for the blog picked out. It is killer.

2:15 PM – We arrive at my parents house to get the children and cry when we arrive.        

Recap of our vacation to Chester, CT

We just returned from our annual trip to the family “Cottage” in Chester, Connecticut and once again, it was nothing but good times. 
The kids spent most of their days swimming in the lake:   

  

I was ordered to join them … :

To throw them around non-stop:

And then this old man would collapse and beg them to just swim around:

The lake lends itself to so many amazing photo opportunities and hopefully this amateur photographer captured them OK:   

We spent one day at the beach in Rhode Island just to mix it up a bit:

East Beach was our kind of beach; just a natural oasis with nothing built up around it:

We made sure to partake in the the legendary Del’s frozen lemonade while in RI:

And on the trek back to CT, we made a few stops along the way for more pictures:

My personal fave, making the kids suffer in the bright sun:

 We spent another morning at the aquarium in Mystic, CT:

We met up with family and kicked it old school with roasted marshmallows and … :

Sparklers baby:

My son turned 10 (you friggin kidding me?) while we were away and we celebrated it well:

But when all was said and done, the best part was spending a week with my three favorite people in the world:

It kind of sucks to be back, but I can now get back to the garden and believe me, it needs me desperately.

John

What happens in Vegas …

… doesn’t necessarily have to completely stay in Vegas. 
My wife and I, along with two other couples, hit the City of Sin this past weekend. All six of us will be turning 40 within the next few months so we figured let’s test our intestinal fortitude and live like rock stars for a few days. 
While I cannot provide you with a lot of the details (the six of us did agree to keep some things quiet) I can tell you it was a fantastic time, we lost very little money, ate like champs, walked miles a day, drank gallons of gatorade, people watched like never before and enjoyed all Vegas had to offer as the adult Disney World.
I could have stared at the “strip” all night as it was a sensory experience that will never be forgotten:  
We rented a cabana with a personal waitress, fully stocked bar, mister, air conditioned room and private patio. That = good times in the Vegas heat:    
And on the opposite end of the spectrum, we spent time in an “ice bar” that was -5 degrees Celsius. The glasses are completely made out of ice, as were the stools, tables and light fixtures:     
And just to prove to ourselves that we could still “hang”, we partied at a rooftop club with the young ones: 
Maybe some day I’ll reveal some of the other details, but for now, I’ll leave you with some pics of the gardens at Bellagio (keeping it real with the topic of gardens): 

Our trip to Washington D.C.

Me and my clan spent the weekend in Washington D.C. and I’m happy to say we survived the trip:   
Now that the kids are 6 and 9, it is a lot more fun, not to mention a lot easier, traveling with them. They even sort of understood the appeal of visiting our nation’s capital. My son demanded certain photos that he could put in a PowerPoint presentation for school (I kid you not) and my daughter hasn’t stopped talking about the hotel pool and her “awesome” roll away bed. Good times.
My wife and I are nodding off as I write this so I’m going to proceed with as few words as possible and just show you the photos from our trip. You get it right?
We had hoped to time the trip perfectly for the cherry blossoms, but they were mostly “spent” due to the warmer than expected weather. I did manage to find one:
But most of the blossoms were enjoyed like this:
We hit the Air and Space Museum, the Museum of Natural History and the National Museum of the American Indian. They were all fantastic but I’ll spare you the details.
Since this is technically a “gardening” blog, I’ll show you some pics of the United States Botanical Garden. We visited on our way to the U.S. Capitol Building, as seen in the photo below:   

There were a ton of tulip blossoms out front:

And while it was still early in the season, there was still a lot to see:

While the blooms were small in number, there were still some to be found:

We then headed inside to the …

Dad got his plant fix so it was on to the U.S. Capitol Building:

Amazing how I always find flowers wherever I go:

Then it was the Lincoln Memorial:

And then the Arlington National Cemetary where my son was anxious to see the JFK gravesite and the eternal flame:

He just completed a project in school on JFK so he was educating us on a lot of the details.

We also made sure to visit the Tomb of the Unknowns and actually witnessed a changing of the guard. It was incredibly moving to witness and admittedly did not know that it was guarded 24/7 and 365 days each year: 

I also made a point to visit the memorial to those who died in the Challenger space shuttle explosion of 1986. I remember that day well, as I was home sick from school when it happened. I believe I was watching the Price is Right when they broke the news. It still haunts me today:

To see the sheer number of headstones and how they were all perfectly aligned, representing how the soldiers operated in both life and death, was difficult to truly grasp. Some day I would love to go back for an entire day to really get to understand all of the history of this place :    

Time for bed.

I love my kids, but it is time for them to go back to school so we can all get a little break from each other.

John