Family outings

Mardi Gras in Maryland

Posted in Celebrations, Family outings on March 22nd, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

It was no Mardi Gras parade, but we had a nice time exploring many newly reopened shops while hunting for masks and collecting beads during Mardi Gras on Main St. the Saturday before Mardi Gras. Sadly, the promise of beignets was a bust. :( Chocolate treats had to substitute.

Mardi Gras on Main St.

You may have noticed Jen’s snazzy shirt. Jen may be a Marylander now, but she still hangs on to some of her Louisiana roots! She made a new shirt for Mardi Gras before baking four king cakes and making jambalaya.

Mardi Gras Marylander

Maple sugaring

Posted in Family outings on March 21st, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

For a fun outing, we joined Grams and headed to Brookside Nature Center for their Maple Sugaring days. They taught us about the process of making maple syrup. Here they are cooking down the sap to make syrup.

Maple sugaring

At the end of the activity, we all got pancakes with maple syrup (of course).


Maryland doesn’t create much maple syrup. While Vermont creates up to 2 million gallons a year, Maryland comes in with a total of 0 gallons. But that doesn’t stop Brookside Gardens from creating a little bit from their 5 sugar maple trees. We even got to taste a little of what they’d produced by dipping a popsicle stick in this little jar of it.

Maryland syrup

We picked up a couple of maple treats, including this cotton candy made from maple syrup.

Maple cotton candy

After the maple fun, we headed to Aunt EA and Uncle Scott’s house to hang out. Leah was happy to read Charlie a book.

Reading to Charlie

American Girl store

Posted in Family outings, Family visits, Leah, Molly on March 12th, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Three days after Christmas, G’Mom and Grampa arrived to continue the fun. Jen came up with a fun activity to do when they were in town. We made the trip down to Tyson’s Corner to go to the American Girl store. The girls were quite excited. They both had a bunch of gift cards they had been saving up for some time, and it was time to spend them.

American Girl store

Here they are with a couple of their chosen items.


This place seems to inspire joy in these girls.


Here they are with bags full of fun in front of the store’s Christmas tree.

Their loot

Post-Christmas Star Wars

Posted in Family outings, Leah, Molly on March 11th, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

The morning after Christmas was our first chance to try out the new BB-8 waffle maker Molly and Leah had gotten me for Christmas. They were of course delicious.

BB-8 waffles

The next day continued the Star Wars fun. With everything going on in building up to Christmas, we had not had a chance to see Rogue One: A Star Wars Story yet despite being big Star Wars fans. So, we resolved to see it soon thereafter. It was Molly’s first time getting to sit in the fancy reclining movie theater seats.

Rogue One

Neighborhood Santa visit

Posted in Family outings, Leah, Molly on March 3rd, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

As happens every year, the Fire Department brought Santa’s sleigh to our neighborhood.

Neighborhood Santa visit

I believe Molly told him that for Christmas she wanted a chicken that said “pataca” (inside family joke).

Christmas wish

Here’s a wider shot of the sleigh and the front of the line waiting for their turn.

Fire department sleigh

Getting a Christmas Tree

Posted in Family outings, Leah, Molly on February 27th, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

So, sorry for not posting anything for the past couple of months. But never fear, I’ve been taking pictures along the way and will now catch you up over the next few days. So, think back to December, and pretend the holiday season is just getting started.

This year, we returned to our favorite place to find and cut down a Christmas tree, Greenway Farms. Sadly, they no longer have any White Pines (our go-to tree), so we had to choose something else. We browsed around for a lot longer than the girls wanted to, checking out the Douglas Fir, Norway Spruce, Blue Spruce, White Spruce, and Canaan Fir. We ultimately found a Canaan Fir we liked (as you can see here) and I cut it down.

Christmas tree seeking

Cutting down a tree is enough work to warm you up, so I ended up taking off my jacket. The girls were complaining about being cold, and each wanted to wear my discarded jacket. They found a fun solution.

Two peas in a pod


Posted in Family outings, Family visits, Molly on November 6th, 2016 by c-had – Be the first to comment

The day after Leah’s birthday, we continued celebrating with a day trip to Lancaster, Pennsylvania for some fun. In looking for things to do, the girls were the most excited about visiting Aimee and Daria’s Doll Outlet. The place is impressive, in the number of doll accessories offered as well as the prices when compared to those of the American Girl brand.

Doll outlet

While the downstairs of the Doll Outlet is full of doll accessories to buy, the upstairs contains a “nursery” with lots of baby dolls and other stuff. The girls got to sit in the princess chairs up there for a picture.


The girls (and their dolls) and their loot.


We then wanted to learn a bit about the Amish. The folks at the Doll outlet recommended we head to The Amish Farm and House. We did, and took the house tour, then headed out to explore the farm. We even got to take a buggy ride around the farm.

Buggy ride

They had Amish scooters that we could ride around a track.

Amish scooters

Amish scooters

G'Mom too

For dinner, we went to the Strasburg Shoppes. They have a great deli for dinner, then followed up with some delicious ice cream from the creamery there.

Strasburg Creamery

Yummy rainbow sherbet. And the waffle cones were made there fresh daily (we saw the rows of waffle makers and had to get some).


We then drove home for a late bedtime. It was a fun day and we’d love to do it again.

US Open trip

Posted in Family outings, Sports, Trip on September 13th, 2016 by c-had – Be the first to comment

For many years, I’ve wanted to go up to New York to the US Open, but I’ve never actually made it happen. It’s usually the first two weeks of school, and there’s a lot going on around home. Not to mention that it’s expensive. But this year was going to be different. Since Leah has now really gotten into tennis, I figured I had at least one other person who’d be really excited about it. So, I decided I was going to make it happen this year. Or at least try really hard.

Because of school, the only time we could go was Labor Day weekend (the middle weekend of the tournament). This is the worst time to go, as it’s the most crowded and the tickets are more expensive (supply and demand). I’m a USTA member, which meant I could get early access to ticket sales. But, the day they became available, there were already very few tickets available and they were very expensive. Hotels were also expensive. So I waited and kept checking. Things did not improve.

Eventually I came up with an alternate plan - just go for one day. That would mean only buying tickets for one day, and no hotel stay. And, in reality, I’m not sure the rest of the family would be up for multiple full days at the tournament. I also decided to wait till the last minute to purchase tickets in the hopes that prices would drop as sellers tried to unload them.

My plan ended up working well. I bought tickets from Ticket Liquidator on Saturday to see the tournament on Sunday. They were even tickets with reserved seats in Arthur Ashe Stadium, not just grounds passes. Then we woke up early and left our house at 7:45 to drive up to New York. It took a bit under four hours of driving, then an hour to get parked, shuttled, and in the tournament.

Our first stop was to see Taylor Townsend and Asia Muhammad (unseeded Americans) play doubles against Tímea Babos and Yaroslava Shvedova (the number 3 seed). They were playing on court 11, which is a great court. We sat in the stands, though we later returned to court 11 for a different match and sat on the other side right next to the court.

US Open

The Americans lost the first set 6-0, but came back to win the next two sets 6-4, 6-3 to advance to the quarterfinals.

Townsend forehand

We then found our seats in the giant Arthur Ashe Stadium to see American Madison Keys (#9 in the world) play former #1 Caroline Wozniacki.

Arthur Ashe Stadium

Madison's serve

The girls loved being in the stadium, despite the fact that our seats were way up high.

Tennis girls

Madison Keys lost sadly. The next match up on Ashe was the headline match of the afternoon featuring Raphael Nadal. The girls wanted to stay and watch it, but I really wanted to explore the grounds a bit. I assured them that we had plenty of time to see Nadal play, though, as his matches lasted forever. So, we exited the stadium to see if we could catch some tennis action a bit closer up.

When wandering around the grounds, Jen saw this couch made of tennis balls. She knew we had to get a picture on it.

Tennis ball couch

We then headed back to court 11 to see Bethany Mattek-Sands and Lucie Šafářová take on Karolína Plíšková and Julia Görges. This time, we sat on the opposite side right next to the court. I joked with Molly that we could reach out and grab their racquets we were so close (we did not do that, though).


Lucie Šafářová gets seriously high in the air on this forehand.

Safarova forehand

It felt like Bethany Mattek-Sands might run into me as she ran for this backhand.


Bethany Mattek-Sands ripped this forehand.

Mattek-Sands forehand

They pulled off the comeback upset, winning 2-6, 7-5, 6-3 and advancing to the quarterfinals where they faced the other Americans we had seen earlier in the day. Mattel-Sands and Šafářová won that as well, and ended up winning the whole tournament. They were awesome to watch, and I was glad to see them have so much success.

They won!

We then headed back to our seats in Arthur Ashe Stadium, where Raphael Nadal was playing Lucas Pouille. Despite being out of the stadium for almost two hours, we only missed the first set of that match. As Nadal often has epic matches, I was sure there would be more more to see. He did not disappoint us.

Epic match

Lucas Pouille really impressed me (and the rest of the world). He’s now my favorite up-and-coming player. He had a ton of heart, and never gave up. It also helps that his playing style is quite similar to mine, and he plays with the same racquet as me. It makes it easy to identify with him.

Pouille serve

Here’s Nadal’s famous forehand.

Nadal forehand

This match lasted a long time, but the stadium remained mostly packed throughout despite that. This panorama also gives you an idea of just how high up our seats were.

Packed stadium

Here, Nadal is about to serve the final point, and the match clock stands at 4 hours and 7 minutes. It was a seriously long match (the longest of the tournament). During the 5th set, Molly and Jen were ready to leave and beat traffic. Leah and I, however, would not consider leaving such a great match before it finished.

Really long match

Pouille pulled off an incredible upset, defeating Nadal 8-6 in the fifth set tie-breaker. Sadly, he went on to lose his next match to fellow Frenchman Gaël Monfils.


Then we bought some T-shirts and headed to our car. Thanks to folks arriving for the evening session, folks leaving from the day session, and folks arriving for a New York Mets game (the stadium is next door), getting out of the parking lot was a pain. It took us about an hour, and then we drove home. Leah was asleep before we got out of the parking lot, but Molly stayed awake until we were on the New Jersey Turnpike. We ended up getting home at 1:22am, ending a very long and very fun day. I’m tired again just writing about it.

First Washington Kastles match

Posted in Family outings, Sports on September 5th, 2016 by c-had – Be the first to comment

A few weeks ago (the day after Molly got back from camp), we took the girls to their first professional sporting event. We went to see a Washington Kastles match.

If you are not familiar with the Kastles, they are a World Team Tennis team. While most of professional tennis revolves around individual performances in the ATP and WTA, World Team Tennis offers pros and fans a team format and a lot of fun.

We went to see the Kastles on Family Day. That meant they had a USTA Play Day in the stadium for kids a few hours before the match. Both Molly and Leah took part.

USTA Family Day

Not only did the kids get to play on the court, but Nick Kyrgios (currently #16 in the world) came out to play with the kids. He started with the court next to the girls, but got interrupted when our kids lost their ball and Leah ran onto his court to get it.

Nick Kyrgios interruption

Then Nick made it onto their court. Yes, that’s Molly playing tennis with Nick Kyrgios.

Playing with Nick

Leah knows to stand in ready position when Nick Kyrgios is hitting the ball to you.

Ready position

Nick then moved on to the next court, and our kids kept playing. Here’s Molly winning a ball balancing competition.


They had a DJ playing music, which meant Molly spent a lot of time dancing on the tennis court. Most of the adults running things thought she was great.


Still dancing

Nick Kyrgios showed the kids how an overhead smash is done.


This is apparently the face you make when you hit a forehand. And you stand on one leg.

Forehand face

Smiling player

Molly still has her tongue out as she reaches for this ball.

Tongue out

The obligatory group picture with Nick before he headed out.

Group picture

Here’s the whole Play Day. They had 4 mini courts set up for the kids.

The whole Play Day

After the kids were done playing, the Kastles had a pizza party for them, as well as some arts and crafts stations to make signs. We also got to see the Kastles warm up. Here’s the entire mostly empty stadium, with Nick Kyrgios and Sam Groth warming up.

Kastles Stadium

Warm up

And their serves in action.

Groth Serve

Kyrgios Serve

In addition to the pizza and crafts, they had a tennis-themed juggler put on an act. I don’t know if he’s always tennis-themed, or just for this event, but he was quite good.


Once we got to our seats (front row of the upper deck), the girls got a picture with the tennis ball man. I proceeded to tweet this picture, which was picked as the Kastles’s favorite tweet, winning us a prize bag (more on that later).

Tennis ball man

In our seats, with our signs.

In our seats

The girls got to go on the court to form the tunnel that the players ran out through. They were very excited to high five the players on the court, even the players from the other team.

Then, they got to stay on court for the national anthem.

National anthem

Then we got to actually watch the Kastles play. Here’s Nick Kyrgios and Andreja Klepac playing against Scott Lipsky and Alla Kudryavtseva from the Orange County Breakers.

The match

During breaks, they would show interviews and other quick spots on the big screen. They did one about Family Day, and wanted some kids in the spot. Since we were sitting on the front row of the upper deck, we were in the perfect spot for them to find us.

On camera

Here’s what they looked like on the big screen during the spot.

On the big screen

The match was a lot of fun of course, but I have fewer pictures of it. But here are a couple of serves. First, Nick Kyrgios serving in Men’s Doubles.

Kyrgios serve

And here’s Madison Brengle serving in Women’s Doubles.

Brengle serve

It ended up going into extended play, but the Kastles won! Here’s Nick rushing to his teammates after winning the final point.

Kastles win!

The match was so much fun, and we hope to go back next year. And I can’t forget to tell you about all our loot. We got so much free and cheap stuff at the Kastles match. It included:

  • A free Mylan World Team Tennis shirt for each of the girls from the USTA Play Day
  • A free Washington Kastles shirt for each of the girls for being part of the run-out tunnel
  • A free tennis racquet and tennis ball for each of the girls, which all kids under 12 in attendance received
  • A free long-sleeve Nike Dri-Fit shirt, hat, wristband, and a Pinstripes gift certificate to for my winning tweet I mentioned above
  • A free wristband that was thrown by the players into the stands that we caught
  • A free tennis ball that was hit by the opposing team’s coach into the stands
  • 2 youth hats and 1 very nice adult T-shirt that were $10 each
  • Miscellaneous other small free items they gave out

Quite the haul, especially since the tickets were only $12 each in the first place.

Our loot

Happy baby on Memorial Day

Posted in Celebrations, Family outings on June 24th, 2016 by c-had – Be the first to comment

For Memorial Day, we went to Aunt EA and Uncle Scott’s house for food and fun. It was delicious (especially the homemade sausages), and good family hangout time. That said, I didn’t really take many pictures. I did get one of Charlie, though, showing what a happy kid he is.

Loved, happy baby

Who wouldn’t be happy with a Grams that loved you that much?