Posts filed under ‘Travel’
A friend of mine told me a story about her 15-year old son. One day she gave him a choice–
- He could take out the trash
- or -
- He could give his mother a hug.
“He chose to take out the trash!” my friend laughed.
I knew it was coming, but I thought with a 20 month old son, I had a good decade or so before I would encounter such a snub. Nope! Last month for my 38th Birthday Hike, our little family drove up to Catocin Mountain Park. We parked at the Visitors Center and hiked 1.4 miles to Cunningham Falls, which at 78-feet is the largest cascading falls in Maryland.
Sagan was patiently indifferent to the first 1.2 miles. He did some walking, but for the most part hitched a ride.
When we reached the final approach to the falls, however, Sagan found his passion. That last 0.2 miles was a boardwalk and he LOVED running back and forth on it.
He loved it so much, in fact, that when I tried to get him to stop for a second to pose for a picture with the falls, he would have none of it! He squirmed, he balked, and then…
He ran away. : )
To be honest, it was rather worth it to see him have so much fun. After some more exploring the boardwalk, we hiked back to the visitors center and indulged in some yummy yummy Cracker Barrell on the way home. All in all, a most excellent day!
|Cunningham Falls via the Falls Nature Trail
14707 Park Central Road
Length: 2.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 40 Feet
Sagan’s Uncle Thad is a Kung Fu instructor and his Aunt Rachelle also happens to have her Shao Lin black belt. Our third full day in New York City, we travelled to Central Park to watch Thad teach a Ba Gua Broadsword class in Tupelo Meadows.
My friend from high school Brian joined us and then there was a surprise spectator as well– an Eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina)!
There was a small mishap. As Sagan worked on a poopy in the park, we were light heartedly encouraging him and joking around. Little did we know, this poopy was a free spirit which would not be contained by diapie, pants or onesie. We had packed extra diapies and wipes (an improvement upon our American Museum outing), but we did not have an extra outfit handy. Sagan spent the rest of the afternoon allegedly getting stares from strangers (I was oblivious to judgemental looks).
We ate at a nearby Shake Shack which Sagan seemed to really enjoy. After that, we stopped by the Upper West Side Patagonia which was having their annual 50% off sale. Sagan managed to find a baby in the mirror.
At that point it was time to return to Brooklyn. We got to squeeze in some final visiting with Brian on the Subway.
It was a lovely way to spend our last full day in New York. More pictures of our outing to Central Park can be found on my Flickr site.
One of my best friends from high school, Brian, lives and works in Manhattan. He invited us to come by and tour where he works. It’s just a little company by the name of “Google”. So on our second full day in New York City, we found ourselves immersed in a most impressive work environment.
I had somewhat expected to get off the subway and see this giant towering skyscraper with the familiar Google logo on top. The building itself was surprisingly short, but it takes up a whole city block! It has the second largest footprint in New York City and takes nine minutes to walk around the perimeter. Inside a series of maps helps employees and guests navigate the vast offices and a number of scooters (and scooter parking areas) are scattered throughout to assist with transit. There are also a couple of ladders to give employees a more direct route between floors.
Art and Decor
A lot of thought went into the art and decor of the offices. Each floor, each conference room and each “mini” kitchen had a theme– they had a Pac Man mini kitchen, a conference room with bathroom-themed furniture, a jungle room. A lot of artwork was particularly appealing to geek culture– portraits of Star Wars characters and even an xkcd mural in the stairwell.
Google feeds their employees well. In additional to ample “mini” kitchens, there were a couple of cafes where the employees and their guests can partake in free meals. It’s good food too! Our visit was timed so that Brian was able to take us to the “small” cafe to eat. Sagan got to try quinoa for the first time along with the more familiar cantaloupe, strawberries, chicken, swiss chard, mozzarella and bread.
The cafe we were at had a Manhattan Cityscape painted on the walls and an actual water tower that was relocated and rebuilt inside the cafe. We’re told if you stand in the right spot, the painted buildings line up with the actual buildings outside. Sagan very much enjoyed taking in the view and banging on the window.
The library was quite impressive. One wall was covered in touch screens where you could browse through bookshelves and open up and preview books.
The opposite wall of the library was lined with more traditional bookshelves and books, but even that had a twist. One of the bookshelves was actually a door to a hidden work room with a nice, inviting lounge chair.
Google was a great place for “an unabashed nerd” like Ryan to visit. They had a display of old computers and video game consoles which appealed to Ryan’s habit of cataloguing museums with Creative Commons photos on Flickr. There was a community chess game going on and we met an employee who had organized a Human Turing machine (which was reminiscent of the Human Bubble Sort Ryan organized with the Neighborhood Kids). One wall sported a safe. Supposedly throughout the building there are clues to opening that safe! Perhaps we saw one of those clues– QR Codes in the tiling of one of the “mini” kitchens. A lot of walls doubled as white boards and housed formulas, notes, pseudo code or simply links to someone’s YouTube page.
Video of Human Turing Machine
Google was a great place for someone nature-oriented like me to visit as well. In addition to everything mentioned so far, the offices had outdoor terraces…growing edible plants!
Google is Great for Babies!!!
Now, perhaps it is obvious that Ryan and I would enjoy a visit to Google. Get this– Google was also a great place for a baby!!! Not only were there a lot of finger foods to try, there were lots of stimulating art and colors for Sagan to look at. There were super friendly employees to smile at and large areas great for walking practice. At one point, Brian was showing us an “Explore Your World” center powered by Google Earth and a semi-circle of flat screens. While Brian was exploring his world, Sagan was exploring his, inch worming across the carpet, taking in the patterns. Finally– there was a ball pit and stuffed animals. Initially Sagan was scared of the ball pit, but he warmed up to and had an absolute blast!
There were some more subtle perks as well that come along with working for a large company like Google. While we talked, Brian revealed that he does not have to work 80 hour weeks as rumor would lead you to believe. Furthermore, he isn’t on call 24 hours a day like Ryan and I are. And unbelievably, Brian can actually leave his laptop (and work) behind at the office– a luxury that is hard for me to fathom!
Although there was so much one can covet in that work environment, Ryan commented on the way back home, “It’s impossible to be jealous of Brian. Everything he has, he deserves.”
Ryan is right. My friend Brian is amazingly smart, extremely hardworking and then at the same time, so very generous and kind. Google not only has great taste when it comes to work environments, they apparently have impeccable taste in people as well. : )
More pictures of the Google Manhattan Campus are on my Flickr site.
Greetings from New York City. Ryan, Sagan and I came up for a few days to visit some family and friends! Yesterday was Sagan’s first full day in New York City. It went like this:
WTF Coffee Lab
We woke up and played at Aunt Rachelle and Uncle Thad’s apartment. In mid-morning, we all walked down to WTF Coffee Lab. Sagan partook in a Blueberry, Strawberry, Raspberry Smoothie. He also ate selected pieces of an oatmeal raisin scone. Meanwhile Mommy and Daddy tried out “Cold Brew” coffee– which was both delicious and delightfully nerdy (The mechanisms at WTF Coffee Lab made it reminiscent of a science lab.)
Subway to Museum
Back at Rachelle and Thad’s Sagan took a nap. When he woke up, the adults fueled up on some peanut butter toast and then headed out for adventure. On the subway, I made the realization that I had forgotten to pack diapies…. and Sagan was sort of due for a “BM”. So when we arrived at Central Park, we first did a quick lap of the area to procure some diapies and wipes. It turned out they weren’t necessary, but this was definitely a “Better Safe Than Sorry” moment.
American Museum of Natural History – Big Bang
At the museum, we first went to go see the Big Bang movie. We were surprised to hear Liam Nesson’s voice instead of Maya Angelou. The movie had been redone. Sagan did watch the happenings on the floor, but also found the time and inclination to kick the railing and to shove his hand into Aunt Rachelle’s mouth.
American Museum of Natural History – Creates of Light
After that, we went to the Creatures of Light Nature’s Bioluminescence special exhibit. This was well geared for Sagan as there were a lot of blinking lights. He particularly like pressing the green button to communicate with female fireflies and he loved walking in the pretend water (lights projected on the floor) of the Bioluminescent Bay of Vieques Island section. He did have “fussypants” moments- when I wouldn’t let him pull down a display, when I didn’t let him put a pacifier he purposefully threw on the ground back in his mouth and when we had to put things back on the shelf at the gift shop. But overall, I would say his demeanor was happy and enthralled.
American Museum of Natural History – Dinosaurs
After Bioluminescence, we had to hit up some dinosaurs. Sagan actually was wearing a little Stegosaurus on his outfit, though you can’t see it due to the ever-awesome and handy Moby Wrap.
American Museum of Natural History – Hall of Human Origins
We also stopped by the Hall of Human Origins where Sagan shook hands with some of his ancient ancestors. I was also surprised how small Australopithecus was. They were almost Sagan sized!
American Museum of Natural History – New Skills
The American Museum of Natural History is always educational, so it isn’t surprising Sagan learned some new skills. Early on, Sagan discovered his echo in the museum hallways. From that point on, whenever we were navigating between exhibits, Sagan marvelled in shouting and hearing himself reply.
Aunt Rachelle, however, taught him a more valuable life skill.
Subway Ride Back
By the time we left the museum, we had one tired baby. But we were graciously spared a spectacle on the subway. A number of strangers smiled and made faces with Sagan which kept him happy and entertained until he finally fell asleep.
Sagan actually napped until his usual bedtime. Despite the hour, he seemed happy and awake, so we thought, “Oh okay, we can go out to dinner.” Luckily the universe was looking after us novice parents. The restaurant we chose was pretty busy, so we opted to get our order to go instead. As we waited for our food, it became clear that Sagan was ready to go back to bed. So it was very good we didn’t try to eat a meal there. Sagan did stay up long enough to try injera (He loved it!) and eat some lentils, carrots, cabbage, etc. We held off on introducing him to berbere though. : )
After his first Ethiopian food, young Sagan fell right asleep.
It was a wonderful, albeit busy day. More pictures of our visit to New York City are on my Flickr site.
Our third full day in Washington State was Alex and Ryn’s wedding day! They got married at beautiful Swans Trail Farms in Snohomish, Washington. The gorgeous scenery was only enhanced by the scattered Pacific Northwest rain showers we had that day.
There were a number of things I loved about the wedding. I was quite a fan of their processional song. They picked No Doubt’s “Running”! They had another great musical selection for the joint Mother-Son/Father-Daughter Dance. They picked “Puff the Magic Dragon”. Unplanned, all the guests surrounding the dancing couples started to sing along. Although a rain shower started during the ceremony, you couldn’t stop the smiles of the bride and the groom and their immediate family. Everyone was so, so happy!
What was most impressive about the wedding was all the handmade work behind it. Alex’s fiance, Ryn, has proven to be quite craftsy. She handmade an American Chestnut Foundation/Port Discover Themed card for Ryan and I at our wedding. With her own wedding, Ryn took on an ambitious endeavor. All the flowers (not to mention invitations and place cards and table markers) would be handmade! Now Ryan and I had a lot of handmade stuff at our wedding…. BUT we had a whole neighborhood of kids on hand to help. Ryn did recruit a number of people across the country to help make flowers (One of my contributions were the Coffee Filter Roses), but I still think the logistics of that is significantly more impressive than walking out on your front porch and saying, “Hey, you! Wanna wrap this in tulle?” : )
Although Ryn admitted at one point feeling overwhelmed by the whole flower endeavor, it came out splendidly. The centerpieces were AWESOME! Each one was a mixture of handmade flowers from friends and family across the continent. They were eccletic, gorgeous and a nice visual representation of all the love for the couple! All the favors (handmade felt flower magnets) were adorable. The wedding party bouquets were unique keepsakes. Even the table napkins were origami lotuses!
On top of all that, this event also delivered on my two favorite parts of weddings. Cake (They had NINE different cakes to choose from) and Dancing! Lots and lots of dancing. It was a quite a blast and a very happy day!
After our visit to the Space Needle, Brian N, Ryan and I had a quick lunch and then waltzed over to the Pacific Science Center. This place was an absolute blast! The Pacific Science Center excels in hands-on activities. We very much enjoyed a number of the exhibits.
Dinosaurs: A Journey Through Time
This exhibit was less hands-on than most of the others, but still full of interesting tidbits and factoids. They also managed to find a way to work The Far Side cartoons into the exhibit.
Science on a Sphere
Around the Science on a Sphere display were a number of astrological displays. I got to check to see what my pregnancy weight would be on the various planets. I was a little concerned until Ryan stepped on the scale and I saw his “Earth Weight” was running high as well. I also got to fact check an Isaac Asimov story I read recently. Venus is indeed hotter than Mercury. Finally, I found amusement by the display were you could touch a real meteor rock. Ryan and I have meteorite inlays in our wedding rings… so we get to touch meteor rocks every day. : )
They had a wonderful reptile section including a mesmorizing leopard gecko. I think our group favorite was the Naked Mole Rat Colony. They were well lit and busy little critters. In their community, road rage and pedestrian range doesn’t appear to exist. It was completely socially acceptable to trample over your colleagues carrying a carrot. No one seemed to mind one bit. I could have watched those things all day.
The Naked Mole Rat Display (Photo by Ryan Somma)
Naked Mole Rats (Photo by Ryan Somma)
Kids Works and Science Playground
Here, we had a good time playing with motors and mirrors. We particularly enjoyed posing for the “Shadow Wall”, a photo-sensitive wall that would record your shadow after a regular flash. Unfortunately, those pictures didn’t come out that well. Many women struggle to lose their bellies after pregnancy. At the Pacific Science Center, I found a means to lose mine instantly before the baby is even born! : )
Body Works was super fun. We took turns maxing out the calorie counter bicycles, testing our reaction time, guessing smells, getting seriously humbled by the muscle endurance tests and checking our center of gravity.
The insect village was pretty neat and we arrived just in time to hold a hissing cockroach. I also found a nice little spot to put my feet up.
Tropical Butterfly House
The finale of our visit to Tropical Butterfly House. At 4000 square feet and with 500 butterflies imported weekly, it really blew away the Butterfly Pavilion I saw at the Smithsonian in 2008.
We started our day being disappointed in the Science Fiction Museum. We ended our day with opposite sentiments about the Pacific Science Center. : )
More pictures of our visit to the Pacific Science Center can be found on my Flickr site.
After our disappointing visit to the Science Fiction Museum and noting the weather was currently sunny and clear, Ryan, Brian N and I headed over to the Space Needle. Lines were short and the elevator ride was only 40 seconds long. Before we knew it, we were at the top taking in stunning views.
Brian N and I have been friends since my sophmore year of high school. In the past 20 years, his keenly calibrated observations have brought me a lot of laughter. The Space Needle was no exception. At the top, we were all reading a seemingly benign sign about the history of the structure. Brian drew our attention to Edward Carlson’s original sketch of his vision. It looked like a kindergartener drew it!
Brian started to mock the design and speculated on the hand off of the design to the architects and engineers.
“You see what I’m going for, right?”
I laughed and laughed and laughed, just as I did in high school, just as I did in college and just as I continue to do well into adulthood.
On our way back down the Space Needle, our elevator gave us a preview of our next destination – The Pacific Science Center!
Our first day in Washington State was a nature-themed day where we hiked Cougar Mountain and visited American chestnuts. The second day was intended to be a science-themed day. My high school classmate, Brian N, was also in town for the same upcoming wedding so he joined us for a day of site-seeing in Seattle!
Our very first stop was the Science Fiction “Museum”. I put the word museum in quotes because I believe a museum should be a collection of exhibits (plural). This museum had one Science Fiction exhibit– Battlestar Galatica. It was a nice exhibit, but still just one exhibit. Apparently, the remaining Science Fiction Galleries were under renovations to accommodate a new Avatar exhibit that opens June 4th.
The Science Fiction Museum was one of the few things on our agenda before we left Virginia, so we were pretty disappointed with what was actually there.
There was a small bright side. Your entry fee also included the Experience Music Project, which was hosting “Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses“. Nirvana was my favorite band in high school and early college. It was a nice trip down memory lane in more ways than one. A lot of the handwritten letters, drawings and Polaroids reminded me of my own youth, particularly winter and summer breaks from college. The long nights at Denny’s; all the free time for creativity; concerts in compact, sweat-filled venues; impromptu road trips; spiral notebooks full of aspirations and witnessing young genius (AE).
And I got to learn a little more about Nirvana as well. I liked how the “NIRVANA” font I am so accustomed to wasn’t purposely selected. It was the typeset already in the machine when the Bleach album cover was designed. Since Ryan and I are currently reading up on birthing processes, I also liked that Cobain came up with the idea for the Nevermind cover after watching a film on water births. : )
Usually this is where I saw there are more pictures on my Flickr site… but it’s not worth a click. My Science Fiction Museum set only has five pictures in it… and none are related to science fiction.
“Ooh,” I said dreamily as I tend to do in the vicinity of mountains, “I wonder which one is Rainier.”
I was expecting something like the mountains in Southwest Virginia, where it took me years (and a lot of counsel from Tony Airaghi) to pick up on the small differences of the various peaks. Such is not the case with Rainier. The very next bend Ryan and I went around, it became exceedingly obvious which mountain was Rainier.
Gee… Which Mountain is Rainier? (Photo by Seattle.roamer)
It absolutely dominates all around it… and it’s a beauty!