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.


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.


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

Busch Gardens

Posted in Trip on April 26th, 2019 by c-had – Be the first to comment

While in Williamsburg, we spent Tuesday and Thursday at Busch Gardens. We got there right when the park opened, which I highly recommend to hit the rides before the lines get long.

Busch Gardens

Tuesday, we went straight to the Loch Ness Monster. Leah’s excited to be back on a roller coaster.

Loch Ness Monster

Next stop: Invadr - a wooden roller coaster. Yes, Jen rode it, and every other ride Leah was big enough to ride.


Adults were not up for all the spinning on Le Catapult, so the girls went by themselves.

Le Catapult

We saw a couple shows - Pet Shenanigans and Celtic Fyre. We experienced the Battle for Eire (a VR ride I wasn’t a fan of). And Leah rode her biggest coaster yet - Apollo’s Chariot (we may have had to round her height up to get her on...), which she loved. We had a good day.

On Thursday, we rode Invadr again. Molly found her favorite coaster - Alpengeist, which she and I rode 3 times (Leah was not tall enough for it). Jen was kind enough to get Leah a cupcake to reward her for her patience while Molly and I rode it for the 3rd time.

Cupcake while waiting

We rode Apollo’s Chariot again (this time Molly and Jen rode it with us). We also rode Verbolten, which was my favorite due to being so different and unexpected (I won’t spoil it for you). We ate gelato. Leah talked me into paying for her to play a carnival game so she could win a plush. We saw Oktoberzest. And we eventually called it a day.

Goodbye Busch Gardens

Colonial Williamsburg

Posted in Trip on April 25th, 2019 by c-had – 1 Comment

We’ve long thought of taking a trip to Williamsburg, and decided to finally make it happen over Spring Break. This was a church folk Spring Break trip, where we have to wait to leave until after singing in Palm Sunday service, and we have to get back in time for Saturday rehearsal and leading worship on Easter Sunday. But Monday - Friday was plenty. Jen bought us a Spring Bounce ticket (admission and parking for the week at Colonial Williamsburg and Busch Gardens) and we hit the road first thing Monday morning.

We went straight to Colonial Williamsburg to see what it was all about. We wandered around a bit getting our bearings. We went through the Silversmith’s shop, we wandered through some stores, we got snacks. We then got in line for the tour at the Capitol.

Colonial Williamsburg Capitol

On the Capitol tour, we learned about colonial times while sitting in the same place Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and others discussed the American Revolution.

Capitol tour

The Capitol also housed the highest court in the Virginia colony.

High court

We stopped in to Charlton’s Coffeehouse to learn about coffeehouses of colonial times. Jen had some tea, and Leah had some chocolate popular in colonial times.

Chocolate and tea

Molly though the chocolate was not good (it was very bitter, a bit thick, and not very sweet).

Weird chocolate

While waiting for a table at Chowning’s Tavern, we wandered over to the Courthouse. One thing led to another, and the girls ended up in the Pillory. Molly is showing proper remorse for her crimes. Leah’s thumbs up makes me think she doesn’t appreciate the gravity of the situation.


Still waiting for our table, Molly tried out the game of graces with the tavern keeper.

Game of graces

We had a delicious dinner at Chowning’s Tavern. Brunswick Stew, Shepherd’s Pie, a crock of cheese, and more deliciousness.

Chowning's Tavern

We then headed to our hotel (Fort Magruder) to get some sleep so we could get to Busch Gardens right when they opened.

Trip to Auburn

Posted in Family visits, Trip on February 12th, 2019 by c-had – Be the first to comment

We were determined to get to Auburn this year, and homecoming ended up being the weekend we could make work. We flew in to Atlanta late Friday, spent the night in a hotel, rented a car, and drove to Auburn Saturday. We met up with Jen’s family and had a great time around town.

Trip to Auburn

The Wesley Foundation hosted a homecoming brunch, so we got to hang out and see old friends. The kids especially enjoyed the ping pong tables. Then we got lunch, did a little shopping, and wandered around reminiscing.

Auburn trip

Of course, part of homecoming weekend is the football game. Sadly, just before half time they suspended play due to lightning in the area. We left the stands and hung out nearby during the ensuing downpour for a while, but eventually decided to leave when it lightened up a bit. We ended up seeing the conclusion on TV as the kids got ready for bed.

Football game

We stayed the night (thanks Julia, Earl, and Daniel), then got up early to drive back to the Atlanta airport to fly home. Hurray for getting to Auburn!

US Open 2018

Posted in Family outings, Trip on September 4th, 2018 by c-had – Be the first to comment

After a day of touring around New York, we were ready for a day of tennis. I actually waited to buy tickets until the night before in our hotel room. This meant we could see who was playing when selecting our tickets, and that we could get a great last minute deal (our tickets were just $47 each for some good seats in Armstrong). We woke up, ate breakfast, checked on Leah’s teacher assignment, checked out of our hotel and drove over to Flushing Meadows. We got in the gates just before 11:00 when the action began.

US Open

We wanted to see some different things while at the US Open. Instead of starting with big names, we started with women’s doubles with some future stars. Whitney Osuigwe here recently won the Girls 18s Nationals (she’s 16), but we got to see her playing with the adults.

Young Americans

Caty McNally was the older member of her doubles team at 16 and a half.

Young Americans

Back in March, Leah moved up to a bigger racquet (a 25” Babolat Pure Drive), but I guess she’s ready to move up to something bigger. That racquet may be taller than she is. Molly said the giant ball was the same size as a basketball.

Bigger gear

We got tickets to the brand new Armstrong Stadium. We made sure to get to our seats early so we didn’t miss any of Venus Williams’s match. It was very hot (95 degrees plus serious humidity), but I made sure our seats were in the shade at least. The seats on the other side in the sun were mostly empty as no one was willing to bake in them.

New Armstrong Stadium

We got to see Venus Williams take on Camila Giorgi in a very tough second round match. Despite being almost as old as me, she survived the heat and humidity to win the match.

Venus Williams

The new Armstrong stadium is really nice. I think I may keep trying to get tickets there. It still has big names like Ashe (maybe slightly smaller), but you get to be so much closer to the action without spending the big bucks. Just make sure to get seats in the shade. As you can see, the sunny seats are mostly empty because it was so hot.

Louis Armstrong Stadium

When we walked in, we passed a kiosk called Melt selling fancy ice cream sandwiches. After the match, we headed straight for it to get a cool treat. Both the girls went for the “Lovelet” (red velvet with cream cheese ice cream). Jen and I split a Brambleberry (honeycomb cookies with blackberry and lavender ice cream). They were delicious and refreshing in that heat.

Melt ice cream sandwiches

After the Venus Williams match, we watched a bit more women’s doubles. Here’s Taylor Townsend (who we’d see play for the Philadelphia Freedoms just a few weeks earlier).

Taylor Townsend

The great part about the outer courts is you can get so close to the action. Leah and Molly were especially close as they tried to find some shade to hide in. They could have easily reached over the fence to hand a ball to the players (they didn’t, that’s frowned upon).

Close to the action

We headed back to our seats in Armstrong stadium to catch the last set of the Juan Martin del Potro match. American Denis Kudla tried his best, but del Potro was just too much for him.

Juan Martin del Potro

Denis Kudla

Then we headed to the Food Village for some dinner (we’d had lunch there too) before hitting the road to drive home. We got home around 11:15, which was a vast improvement over 1:22am from two years ago.

New York Trip

Posted in Family outings, Trip on September 3rd, 2018 by c-had – Be the first to comment

When our school year shifted to starting after Labor Day, a new opportunity became available to us. This meant that the first week of the US Open now happened during summer vacation. Two years ago we went to the Open for one day during the very busy Labor Day weekend, but this change meant we could go during the less busy opening week. So, this year we decided to make the trip.

The girls really wanted to see a bit of New York as well, so we decided to make it a two day trip. We’d drive up, see a bit of New York on day one, then see some tennis and drive home on the second day. So, Tuesday we got up and drove straight to our hotel (the Belvedere, one block away from Times Square) to check in.

After we checked into our hotel, we first took the subway down to the World Trade Center. We wanted to go up high to see the city, and chose the new One World Observatory to do it. The building is pretty impressive from the outside.

One World

They had tablets to rent that would tell you about what you were looking at. I wasn’t interested, but the girls really wanted to get them. I’m glad we did. I imagine the girls would have gotten bored quickly without them. With the tablets, they enjoyed learning all about New York and the landmarks we were looking at from above.


Here’s the view of Manhattan from the One World Observatory.


The girls wanted a picture of themselves with the Statue of Liberty in the background.

Girls and Lady Liberty

The place the girls were most excited to go was American Girl Place, the large American Girl store by Rockefeller Plaza. Molly has been saving gift cards for more than a year. We’d offered to take her to the Washington store, but she wanted to wait to go to the fancy New York store. The girls of course brought their dolls.

American Girl Place

Molly used her gift cards to buy the Girl of the Year - Luciana. Leah also got an outfit and a pet (not pictured).

New doll

Our dinner plan was to go to Ellen’s Stardust Diner (where the wait staff are aspiring Broadway folks who sing while serving you). We got there and got in line (there’s often a line) for 10 minutes or so, when the staff came out and said they were not taking any more customers that day (no idea why). So, we found a pizza joint for some New York pizza. However, it had no seating, so we opted to take our pizza back to the hotel to eat.

New York pizza

After dinner we headed back out to M&M’s World. It’s a fun store with everything M&M you could imagine.

M&M World

The coolest thing at M&M’s World is customizing your own M&M’s. You get to create 4 custom designs to put on your M&M’s. Ours were “Leah is cool”, “Molly is awesome”, a picture of a unicorn, and a picture of a microphone.

Personalized M&M's

The next step was to fill a cup with M&M’s of the colors of your choosing. Ours were yellow, pink, teal, and purple.

Choose your colors

You then pour those M&M’s into the printing machine.

Pour them in

And the printed M&M’s come out at the bottom. The M&M’s still have an M on one side. The machine prints your designs on the other side.

Here they come

And here’s our finished product. It was fun to make, if a bit overprices for M&M’s (that cup cost $20).

Finished product

Then we headed back to the hotel to get some sleep before a fun day of tennis. More on that to come.