Trip

Sadie and Eric’s wedding weekend

Posted in Celebrations, Family visits, Trip on October 21st, 2019 by c-had – Be the first to comment

This weekend, we went to Alabama for the wedding of Jen’s cousin Sadie. We flew into Atlanta Friday, rented a car, and drove to Pursell Farms in Sylacauga, Alabama. We got in at 6:10, changed clothes, and were only a few minutes late to the “cowboy chic” rehearsal dinner.

Rehearsal dinner

We don’t really have anything close to “cowboy chic”, but the girls found some things at a second hand store that were close enough. And that’s as close to cowboy as I get.

Cowboy chic

On Saturday, we opted to just hang out at the farmhouse we were staying in. There were lots of activities going on, but they weren’t really our style (golf, skeet shooting). Plus, the Auburn football game was at 11:00, and we didn’t want to miss it. It was nice having a quiet morning and afternoon, and we had several visitors come hang out with us.

JJ was away with his dad, but the girls had a great time playing outside with Emmie. They threw a football, played hide-and-seek, and played this game where one closed their eyes while the others told them where to walk.

Blind trust

The person directing didn’t always have the best interests of the blind walker in mind, but they all had fun.

Fun

Blind trust

Before heading to the wedding, we had a bit of a photoshoot in our formalwear before the wedding. Here are some of those pictures.

Formal photoshoot

Formal photoshoot

Formal photoshoot

Formal photoshoot

Formal photoshoot

The wedding was lovely. They had to move it under a tent due to some light rain, but it didn’t suffer for it. Congratulations, Sadie and Eric!

Wedding

Uncle J was part of the wedding music.

Music

Here’s our part of the family at the wedding.

Batson family

The reception was very fancy. It included a sit-down meal complete with synchronized serving where servers all lined up behind the guests and then placed plates down in front of them simultaneously. Great band and dancing. And probably the highlight for the kids - cake. Molly was especially excited about the groom’s cake. I think Sadie was as well.

Cake eating

Good cake

We were so glad to be able to see so much family and be a part of this celebration. Congratulations, Sadie and Eric!

Touring Boston

Posted in Family outings, Trip on October 5th, 2019 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Our final destination on our road trip was Boston. After getting into Hamilton this summer, we’ve learned a lot about the American Revolution, so this was a great opportunity to explore it further. So, we drove into the city and headed straight for the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum.

When we arrived for our experience, we were each given an identity of a Tea Party participant to play. We occasionally participated throughout the experience playing our roles. Our first opportunity to do this was in a meeting of the Sons of Liberty. Then we headed outside and boarded a replica of the Eleanor. We learned about the Boston Tea Party while reliving it.

Boston Tea Party ships

We got to throw tea in the harbor! (and then pull it back up by the attached rope so the next person could throw it in)

Throwing the tea

Throwing the tea

And steer the ship.

Driving the ship

We also got to go below deck and explore around. The ships are really not that big. It’s amazing that they sailed these across the ocean.

Once off the ship, they had a bunch of outdoor exhibits. This exhibit simulates pulling a crate of tea up onto the deck to dump it overboard (they had no stairs on the real ships). It’s also a physics lesson. Molly is pulling with the rope over a single pulley (and clearly struggling). The other girl has the rope over a system of two pulleys, halving the amount of force needed to lift the crate.

Pulling up the tea

The girls found their roles on this sign (though clearly Molly was more excited about it than Leah).

Our roles

After we finished, we ate some lunch in Abigail’s Tea Room (the restaurant in the museum). I went full Boston, including Clam Chowder and some Boston Cream Pie. Then we headed out. Once outside, the girls posed with this statue of Samuel Adams.

Samuel Adams

We then walked over to land (did I mention that the Tea Party museum is floating out in the channel) to Faneuil Hall. We bought tickets for a Freedom Trail walking tour, but had an hour to kill before it left. I saw a Uniqlo store and wanted to duck in. Leah found this jacket and had to have it. Jen was resistant, but I gave in. And then Molly got one too. And now they wear them practically constantly.

Uniqlo store

We did the Walk Into History Freedom Trail walking tour. We followed our fantastic tour guide all over Boston learning about its history leading up to the American Revolution.

Freedom Trail

Old South Meeting House

Our tour ended a bit early as there was a Straight Pride parade and counter-protest going on in Boston at the time. So, our tour guide pulled us aside at the statue of Ben Franklin next to the old Latin School (where Ben Franklin was educated), and told us about the remaining sites we would have seen and could now explore on our own if we wished.

With our tour guide

Since the tour was over, the girls did some jacket modeling.

Jacket model

Jacket model

After our tour, we did explore a bit more on our own. When we got to the Boston Common, there was a truck there called Cookie Monstah serving ice cream and cookies. Leah stayed on theme, getting the Green Monster flavor (mint chip).

Boston Common

We made sure to go see the Massachusetts State House and it’s re-gilded dome after our tour guide had described it so well.

Massachusetts State House

Then we walked back to our car to head out. It was a very interesting and educational day.

We stayed the night in our hotel again, then got in the car Sunday and drove all the way back home to Maryland. It was a whirlwind of a trip, and we were all glad to have Labor Day off for a little rest before school started.

Around Newport

Posted in Family outings, Trip on October 4th, 2019 by c-had – Be the first to comment

After Six Flags one day, the US Open the next, and a busy day of tennis already, we decided we needed some more time on our feet. So, we took the girls on the Newport Cliff Walk, a long walk along the cliffs between huge mansions and Easton Bay.

Newport Cliff Walk

We took lots of breaks.

Resting

And saw lots of great views.

Cliff Walk

Cliff Walk selfie

Cliff Walk selfie

Part way along the cliff walk, there was a way to walk out onto the rocks, which the girls were excited about.

Sitting on some rocks

Cliff rocks

While one side of the cliff walk looks out over the cliffs, the other side has lots of Gilded Age mansions. These places are huge and very cool to look at. Today, they mostly serve different purposes (museums, etc.). Seven of these estates were actually combined together to form Salve Regina University, which is what you see in the background of the picture here.

Gilded Age mansions

After about 1.5 miles, we decided we’d walked enough. None of us wanted to walk back, so we waited on the bus.

Tired of walking

After some dinner at a pizza joint (Nikolas Pizza, which was exactly what we wanted), we walked a little bit more for a sweet treat. Sticks and Cones has fresh made gelato, soft serve ice cream, fancy cones (Molly has a chocolate chip cookie cone), and waffles on a stick. It was great!

Sticks and Cones

While the girls may have been more modest in their treats, I went all out with a hot waffle ice cream sandwich. I also went for one of their more unique flavors - sweet corn gelato. They put this in between two fresh waffles, drizzled on some caramel sauce, sprinkled on some powdered sugar, and it was amazing.

Waffles and ice cream

We then finally walked back to our car and drove back to our hotel in Massachusetts, exhausted after a great day.

Tennis Hall of Fame

Posted in Family outings, Sports, Trip on October 3rd, 2019 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Day 3 of our road trip took us to the real impetus for the trip - the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island. I’ve wanted to visit here for years.

I’ll give you a little history so you understand the place. As many of you may know, Newport became the place many wealthy families spent their summers during the Gilded Age (late 19th and early 20th century). That’s why there are so many huge mansions in Newport. Of course, wealthy people had the time and money to engage in lots of activities, so there were a bunch social clubs. One of those was the Newport Casino, which had lots of activities including lawn tennis. Since all the rich folks were there in the summer, this became the site of the first United States Lawn Tennis Association championships. This tournament grew, eventually moved to New York, and then later became what is now the US Open.

The place fell into disrepair, but was eventually restored. Today, it has a museum as well as a fully functioning tennis club with outdoor grass courts as well as indoor courts. Every year it hosts a professional tournament and inducts new legends into the Hall of Fame.

I really wanted to play on the grass courts. I’d never played on grass before, so I booked a court for Leah and me a few weeks in advance. It was expensive ($120 for an hour), but totally worth it. Because we were playing, we were allowed to park in the private club parking lot for free (all the parking around there is paid). We stopped by the club house to get a discount coupon for the museum (another perk of playing), then headed to the museum. They had a green screen photo booth, which we had fun with while waiting for our tour to start.

Here are some more videos and pictures from the photo booth, if you’re interested.

We then took a very interesting guided tour of the museum. We learned about many of the Hall of Fame inductees and the history of tennis. One of my favorite parts was about early racquet sports as well as Court Tennis. Court Tennis, also called Real Tennis or Royal Tennis, is an old more complicated version of the game. More on that later.

Tennis history

One of the fun features of the International Tennis Hall of Fame museum is this broadcasting booth. It lets you record yourself doing commentary on a famous tennis match, then plays it back for you.

Tennis broadcasters

We ate lunch across the street from the Hall of Fame at the Newport Creamery. Leah was excited they had a Waffled Grilled Cheese, and both girls were excited to try an Awful Awful.

Lunch

After lunch, it was finally time to play tennis on the grass courts. We of course had to wear our tennis whites to be allowed to play.

Grass Court Tennis

Grass Court Tennis

Grass Court Tennis

Leah and I did some serving practice side by side. If you’re wondering why she’s inside the line, it’s because she currently plays orange ball tennis, which has a shorter court.

Serving practice

Not sure what’s going on with Leah’s serve technique here, but it cracked Jen up for hours.

Interesting technique

This summer, Leah’s school is doing a thing where they encourage kids to take pictures of themselves reading with the Wildcat in interesting locations. After we finished playing, Leah read a bit and got a picture.

Reading with the wildcat

There are lots more pictures of our grass court tennis on Flickr, if you’re looking for even more. Playing on grass is very different from hard or clay courts. The ball bounces so low, and there are so many odd bounces. It’s very challenging.

After playing, we explored the grounds a bit more. Not only did we learn about Court Tennis in the museum, they even had a fully functioning court that people still play on. This sport is largely unchanged from the days of King Henry VIII (who apparently played all the time). Sadly, no one was playing while we were there.

Court Tennis court

Court Tennis court

We bought some souvenirs, then finally left the Hall of Fame. But our day in Newport was only half over. I’ll tell you about the rest of our day in the next post.

US Open 2019

Posted in Family outings, Sports, Trip on October 2nd, 2019 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Day 2 of our road trip took us to the US Open. Last year, I had gotten a great deal on tickets by waiting till the last minute. This year did not go as well. We left our hotel in New Jersey Thursday morning without any tickets. I kept checking when we stopped, but eventually gave up and bought some tickets at the rest stop right before crossing the George Washington Bridge. No deals for us, this year.

We also had trouble getting there, as there was traffic and Molly eventually got car sick. We finally got in the gates about noon, grabbed some quick lunch, then hit the courts. First stop - Armstrong Stadium where Naomi Osaka (world #1 and reigning champion) was about to come out.

US Open

Naomi Osaka

Naomi Osaka

While we did not get to see one of our favorite players, Bethany Mattek-Sands, play tennis, she was with us in Armstrong Stadium in the broadcaster booth.

Favorite broadcaster

Osaka was playing Magda Linette, who I had hopes of putting up a good fight to make it a competitive match since Linette had won the lead-up tournament in the Bronx the week before. This was not the case, though, as Osaka played great and won fairly easily.

One of my favorite parts of the US Open is the outer courts, where you can sit or stand right next to the court. It’s so up close and personal. We had limited time, so I didn’t get to do this as much as I would have liked, but I did manage to go see a player I really wanted to see. Bianca Andreescu is a super talented teenager, and I got to see her playing her second round match against veteran Kirsten Flipkens. It was a lot of fun. Little did I know she’d go on to defeat Serena Williams in the final and win the whole tournament.

Eventual champ

Bianca Andreescu

Bianca Andreescu

Bianca Andreescu

Gotta get a picture with a giant racquet.

Giant racquet

And the tennis ball couch was back.

Tennis ball couch

Our purchased seats were in the giant Arthur Ashe stadium, but we didn’t get there till the end of our day as we enjoyed going all over the grounds earlier. We saw unseeded American Taylor Townsend take on #4 Simona Halep. It looked like Halep was going to roll over Townsend, but Townsend managed to come back and win. Sadly, we did not stay for the entire match. We had a long drive to Massachusetts that night, so opted to take off early and beat the traffic.

Our seats

Simona Halep

Simona Halep

We ate some dinner and hit the road, driving from New York to our hotel in Attleboro, Massachusetts. We were all ready to get some sleep after a long, fun day.

Big northeastern trip

Posted in Trip on September 30th, 2019 by c-had – Be the first to comment

For years, I’ve been saying that I wanted to take a trip up to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island for my 40th birthday. This expanded into a slightly larger road trip over time. My birthday was back in May, but the last week of summer was the best time for this trip (as you’ll see).

It was a whirlwind trip that’ll take me several posts to detail. The schedule was:

  1. Wednesday - Drive to Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey, do the park, stay in a hotel nearby.
  2. Thursday - Drive to New York, go to the US Open (which is why this trip had to be the last week of summer), drive to Massachusetts, stay in a hotel there.
  3. Friday - Drive to Newport, Rhode Island, go the the tennis hall of fame, enjoy Newport, drive back to the hotel in Massachusetts.
  4. Saturday - Drive into Boston, explore Boston, stay in same hotel.
  5. Sunday - Drive back home.

When I planned the trip, I was thinking Six Flags would be tacked on the end as a sort of gift to the kids since they were coming along for so much of my stuff. But then scheduling made it smarter to go at the beginning. So, they got their treat at the start (though they enjoyed all the other parts as well).

Wednesday was a great day to go to Six Flags Great Adventure, as most of the schools around there were already back in session. So, the park was really empty and we rarely had to wait long for rides. I don’t have many pictures because I was generally on all the rides, but here’s a couple from rides that the girls rode along.

Six Flags Great Adventure

Six Flags Great Adventure

This park had tons of rides. We didn’t ride the most extreme of them (like Kingda Ka), but we had plenty of fun thrill rides anyway. My favorite was El Toro as I love wooden roller coasters and it’s one of the biggest around.

Six Flags Great Adventure was only the beginning of our adventure. But more on that in the next post.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Posted in Molly, Trip on September 19th, 2019 by c-had – 1 Comment

Back in August, Molly and I had a glorious adventure to New York together. You may remember that we (her parents and grandparents) commemorated Molly’s huge achievement of earning her black belt by giving her a trip to New York to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on Broadway. In August, that trip finally happened.

For transportation, we planned to take the train up to New York. We arrived at the train station early to make sure we didn’t miss our train, only to discover that our train was running late. We were supposed to arrive in New York at noon, drop our suitcase at our hotel, then be at the theater at 1:00 for the show at 2:00 (the show said we should get there an hour early as security lines could be long). As we waited, the train kept getting later and later. I called Amtrak to try to move to a different train and was about to change our tickets when we got word that our train had finally left the station in Washington. The train was about an hour late, but we finally got on and had no further delays.

Once we got to New York, we had almost no time. The good news was that our hotel (Row NYC) was right around the corner from the theater. The bad news was our hotel was 12 blocks uptown from Penn Station. I conferred with one of my New York coworkers, and came to the decision that it would be safer to walk it rather than risk further delay on the subway. So, Molly and I walked as fast as we could up 8th Avenue. I was very impressed at how well Molly did navigating New York crowds, weaving in and out of folks as we hoofed it to the hotel. Once there, we checked in, went to our room, Molly changed from her sneakers to fancy shoes, and we were back out of the hotel in just a couple of minutes. We made it to the theater without any trouble (getting there an hour early was unnecessary) and finally took a deep breath. We stopped by concessions to get a drink (we were both very parched after all that), and settled in to our seats.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Our view:

Our seats

For those unfamiliar, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a very long play. It’s got two parts, and you buy tickets for both parts. The first part was from 2:00 to 5:00, then we got a dinner break until the second part started at 7:30.

We planned to go to Ellen’s Stardust Diner for dinner, but the line was a full block long. After waiting in it for 15 minutes, we knew we didn’t have time to wait for it. So, we went in search of somewhere else to eat. We ended up at Pasta Lovers, which was actually fairly empty. The pizza and service there was great! Would recommend.

Pasta Lovers Pizza

Our dinner went so quickly, we stopped into the Times Square Disney Store to check it out before heading back to the theater.

Disney store

I won’t spoil the play for you, but it was fantastic! We loved it so much. Best show either of us have ever seen! I actually went into it a bit trepidatious, as a serious Potterhead worried they’d mess it up. That didn’t last long. And Molly was so into it. It was a lot of fun, and was a take on the Potter universe in a very different way from the books and movies. And the effects were just amazing. All the wire work, and the many creative magic tricks. It was just so good.

The experience was even more than the show itself. The carpet throughout the entire building was Hogwarts themed. They had Harry Potter snacks and souvenir cups. They even had house banners for people to take pictures with, and a staff person standing there all day to take pictures with your phone for you.

Hogwarts banners

Hogwarts banners

Outside the theater, they have a scene from the Sorting Hat ceremony on the wall, including a spot for you to stand like you’re being sorted. Molly tried it out after the show was over.

Sorting hat

After the play, it was late but Molly really wanted to get a sweet treat. So, we trekked all the way to Black Tap to get one of their Crazy Shakes. This is the Cookie Shake, which is an Oreo Shake with vanilla frosted rim with cookie crumbles topped with a ‘cookiewich,’ crumbled cookies, chocolate chips, whipped cream & chocolate drizzle. Way over the top, but so good!

Crazy Shake

We finally got back to our hotel room around midnight and crashed. We got up early the next morning, checked out, and walked toward Penn Station for our train home. We stopped into Liberty Bagels Midtown for breakfast. Molly went for the rainbow bagel with birthday cake cream cheese. She only managed to eat 1/4 of it (then 1/4 more later on the train, then 1/4 more the next day for breakfast). I had the egg bagel with dill & herb cream cheese, which was excellent.

New York bagels

It was such a great trip!

Ocean Isle Beach

Posted in Family visits, Trip on September 15th, 2019 by c-had – 1 Comment

Molly and I finished Baltimore Mission Camp Friday evening, then we all woke up early Saturday (coincidentally, Jen and my anniversary, July 27) to head to Ocean Isle Beach for a week. We met G’Mom, Grampa, Aunt ‘Chelle, Uncle J, Emmie, and JJ there and stayed in a condo just off the beach. We picked Ocean Isle, North Carolina because it was drivable for everyone (though G’Mom and Grampa ended up flying) and highly recommended by one of Jen’s friends. We were not disappointed - it’s a great beach. Maybe my favorite to have visited so far - not crowded, nice water, some stuff to do (though less than you’d find at a bigger more crowded destination).

We arrived around 5:00 Saturday, and Jen made tacos for dinner. Then we walked over to check out the beach. Uncle J got these Surfer Dudes toys for each of the kids, and they were a huge hit. They played with them throughout the week, but they were especially fun on that first evening since we were not swimming then. You throw them out into the water, and they surf back to you on the waves. Thanks Uncle J!

Surfer Dudes

The next morning, we hit the beach for real. There was a lot of boogie boarding.

Boogie boarders

And then some time at the pool. And, of course, when at the beach, you've got to play putt-putt.

Golfers

including some hole-in-ones

Hole in One

Hole in One

Monday we went back to the beach for a lot more boogie boarding.

Molly boogie boarding

Boogie boarding

Boogie boarding

and an obstacle course.

Obstacle course read more »

Savannah trip

Posted in Family visits, Trip on July 15th, 2019 by c-had – Be the first to comment

During the week of the 4th of July, we went to Savannah for the first time in years. This included us in our car, Grams and Aunt Caroline in another car (Uncle Charles was hiking in the Alaskan tundra at the time with his family), and Aunt EA, Uncle Scott, Charlie, and Max flying in from Texas. This was our first long road trip since Molly got her Nintendo Switch, and we created a very fancy system of holding up the Switch for the girls to see the screen involving the case she keeps it in, kitchen twine, and chip clips.

Car Nintendo

The cars decided to split the drive down into 2 days expecting traffic and delays (though it ended up being not too bad). We did most of the drive on the first day, and stayed in Florence, SC. We were very happy to find a Mellow Mushroom and a Bruster’s right across the street from our hotel.

Pit stop

The big reason for our trip to Savannah was to attend the revival of my extended family’s reunion gathering. My grandparents held this every year for decades. My aunt and uncle, who now live in the same house, revived the tradition this year. Of course, we had to get a picture on the dock right away. And, as you can possibly guess, Jen made all the clothes here except mine.

Happy Fourth read more »

More Williamsburg

Posted in Trip on April 27th, 2019 by c-had – Be the first to comment

We spent Wednesday at Colonial Williamsburg as well. We got there in time to see the Welcome play in front of the courthouse. We went to the market house. We explored the courthouse. We wandered around some more. We walked across the street from the historic area to get some lunch. Then we headed to the art museum, which Leah was excited to visit.

We spent a good bit of time in the museum looking at everything. We were captivated for a while by these creepy colonial child portraits. The girls tried to look creepy too.

Creepy pictures

In this creepy picture, the older sisters are trying to restrain the youngest. I think Jen and the girls reproduced it well.

Creepy reproduction

We stopped into Kilwins for some delicious ice cream.

Kilwins

We went on a tour of the Governor’s Palace, which was very interesting. Out back of the Governor’s Palace, there was a hedge maze that I walked with the girls. You may be able to see my head in the back, left corner.

Hedge maze

And there were pretty gardens.

Palace gardens

After our day in Colonial Williamsburg, we walked back to Kilwins to pick up some more sweet treats (fudge and cream eggs). We thought about buying them when we were there earlier, but we worried it would melt as we walked around. While picking these up, Leah and Molly decided to have some more fun with ice cream.

More sweet treats

That evening for dinner, we introduced the girls to a bit of nostalgia from our childhood - Cracker Barrel. It was beautiful out, so we had to sit in rocking chairs on Cracker Barrel’s porch and play checkers while waiting for our table.

Cracker Barrel checkers

Of course, the girls had to experience the classic Cracker Barrel triangle peg board game.

Triangle Peg Board Game

Leah may have been a beginner, but she won!

Leah won!

Like true tourists, we also bought a bunch of sweet treats in the Old Country Store. I got to build my own 4 pack of fancy sodas, and we all got candy sticks (they were 7 for $1, so we got 7).

Cracker Barrel goodies