Posts filed under ‘New York’

Ba Gua in Central Park

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)!

New York - Central Park - Broad Sword Practice
Broadsword Practice in Central Park

New York - Central Park - Sagan Stands During Broad Sword Practice
Sagan and Daddy Watch Broadsword Class

New York - Central Park - Sagan Studies Broad Sword 2
Sagan Studies a Broadsword

New York - Central Park - Box Turtle with Thad's Class
Box Turtle and Broadsword Class

New York - Central Park - Sagan Stalks Box Turtle (Closer)
Sagan Follows the Turtle

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).

New York - Central Park - Sagan in Just a Diapie (By Thad Wong)
Sagan Sports Just His Diapie in Manhattan (Photo by Thad W)

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.

New York - Sagan Sees Baby in Mirror
There’s a Baby!

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.

August 20, 2012 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

A Visit to the Google Manhattan Offices

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.

Size
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.

New York - Google - Scooter Parking
Scooter Parking

New York - Google - Ladder to Cafe
A Ladder to a Cafe

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.

New York - Google - R2D2 and C3PO in Library
Portraits of R2D2 and C3PO in the Library

New York - Google - xkcd in Stairwell
xkcd Mural in Stairwell

New York - Google - Pac Man Hall
Hallway to the “Pac Man Mini Kitchen”

New York - Google - Ryan and Sagan in Jungle Kitchen
Ryan and Sagan in the “Jungle Mini Kitchen”

New York - Google - Bathroom Themed Conference Room
A Bathroom Themed Conference Room

Food
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.

New York - Google - Sagan and Vicky Take in View From Cafe (Photo by Brian N)
Sagan Takes in View from Cafe

The Library
The library was quite impressive. One wall was covered in touch screens where you could browse through bookshelves and open up and preview books.

New York - Google - Brian at Virtual Library
Brian Demonstrates Virtual Library

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.

Geeky Stuff
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

New York - Google - Safe
Supposedly There Are Clues to Open This Safe

New York - Google - Sagan and Ryan with QR Code Flooring
QR Code Tiles – Possible Clue?

Nature
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!

New York - Google - View From Terrace 2
Edible Garden on the Terrace

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!

New York - Google - Sagan Exploring
Brian Explores Via Google Earth, Sagan Explores Via Crawling

New York - Google - Penguin, Vicky, Sagan in Ballpit 2 (By Ryan Somma)
Playing in Ball Pit at Google

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. : )

New York - Google - Brian, Vicky, Sagan Look at Each Other (By Ryan Somma)
Thanks Brian For a Great Day!

More pictures of the Google Manhattan Campus are on my Flickr site.

July 25, 2012 at 9:25 am 1 comment

Sagan at the American Musuem of Natural History

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.

New York - American Museum of Natural History - Ryan and Sagan with Dinosaurs
Dinosaurs!

New York - American Museum of Natural History - Vicky (Kissing), Sagan and Ryan with Stegosaurus (By Thad Wong)
Us in Front of the Stegosaurus (Photo by Thad)

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!

New York - American Museum of Natural History - Sagan Touchs Ancestor Skeleton (Landscape)
Well Hello! Glad to Meet You!

New York - American Museum of Natural History - Australopithecus, Ryan and Sagan (Blurry)
It’s Blurry, but Look How Small Australopithecus Is!

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.

New York - American Museum of Natural History - Rachelle Teaches Sagan to Stick Out His Tongue (After)
Sagan Learns to Stick Out His Tongue

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.

American Museum of Natural History - Sagan and Daddy Rest on Subway (By Rachelle Somma)
Sagan and Daddy Rest on the Subway

Ethiopian Food
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.

July 23, 2012 at 1:00 am 4 comments

Some Things That Did Not Get Blogged About in 2011

Well, goodbye 2011! I’ve seen a number of blogs highlight their favorite posts of the year. I’m going to highlight some of the forgotten posts– the ones I never got around to writing. 🙂

Billy Goat Trail – A Return Trip

Billy Goat Trail - Greg, Ryan and Ryan Climb Rock Wall

My Birthday Hike this year was on Maryland’s Billy Goat Trail along the Potomac River. Ryan and I thought it would be fun to do a group hike on that trail. As luck would have it, my friend Greg Z organized a group hike that following month. The weather was sketchy at first and we did have to wait out a storm under a bridge, but after that we had the trail almost all to ourselves.
Billy Goat Trail - Purple and Blue Wildflowers

My favorite part– my friend Greg Z told me when some of the people in the group were struggling on the rocks, he watched me get further and further ahead. Apparently he pointed and said, “THAT’s the one that’s pregnant.”

We walked the trail the opposite direction Ryan and I took in March. It was nice to see the trail from a different perspective. Also since it was a month later, we got to see wildflowers bloom!

A Most Pleasant Day

Mother’s Day Weekend, Ryan and I went down to visit our old neighborhood in Elizabeth City. We shared honeysuckle in our yard with some of the neighborhood kids. When Ryan went to shake Khalif’s hand, Khalif would have none of it.

“Nah, man.” Khalif said, “We hug.” And so they did. I believe that was our first neighborhood kid hug.

I was six months pregnant at the time and some of the kids marveled at how fat I was.

“It’s only temporary,” Ryan chimed in. Then when the subject came up again, “The pounds are going to just melt off.” Although he directed his statements to the kids, I know who his real target audience was! He was making sure his wife kept her self esteem in tact. : )

We went by Earth 383 for Free Comic Book Day. A number of the neighborhood kids joined us and Ryan organized a large game of RoboRally.

Elizabeth City May 2011 Visit - Moving RoboRally Pieces

One family wasn’t present, so the dogs and I walked over to their new home. When I was still a block away, the youngest kids spotted us and started shouting out my name. They ran inside and their older siblings emerged. The 17-year old son who always seemed somewhat indifferent, came running out with the biggest smile and hugged me in the middle of the street. I spent the remainder of our time in Elizabeth City visiting with that family.

Elizabeth City May 2011 Visit - Vicky and Vick (By Ryan Somma)

The next stop was Ryan’s parent’s house in Virginia Beach. When we returned home, I went swimming in the lake behind their house with my sister-in-law and her fiance. The water was the perfect temperature and it was so pleasant and relaxing to be swimming by manicured back yards along side of ducks and seagulls.

We finished our day with a big family dinner at a local Vietnamese restaurant. There, I got my very first Mother’s Day card… that Ryan had secretly gotten his relatives to sign. It was a great day from start to finish.

My Relatives Kick Ass…Literally

New York Shaolin Test Day - Rachelle with Broad Sword
In May, Ryan and I got to visit the New York Botanical Gardens and the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. That was just an added bonus though. We were really in New York to watch my sister-in-law test for her black belt in Shao-Lin. All the forms she and her classmates had to remember and execute was simply awe-inspiring. That afternoon also brought me the worst heartburn of my entire pregnancy courtesy of a “Magic Bar” I bought as a concession. I still made it through the entire gestation period Tums-Free.

 

Seattle Bug Safari

Seattle Bug Safari - Goliath Bird Eater Tarantula 4 (By Ryan Somma)
In May, Ryan and I visited Seattle. Our outings were blogged about except the Seattle Bug Safari. We very much enjoyed our visit there. The employee working that day was extremely friendly and informative. You could also see that they take their Yelp reviews seriously. One of the reviews indicated that people were getting confused and thinking the Gift Shop was the extent of the business. When we arrived, there were signs making it clear the Bug Zoo was in the back.

Annual Black Friday Cookie Decorating

Cookie Decorating - Sagan Decorating with Daddy
My family held our annual Black Friday Cookie Decorating again this year. Although we were late on the invites, it was heavily attended. When all the sugar cookies got decorated, some enterprising young girls started to decorate the other variety of cookies. Sagan also decorated his first cookie (with Daddy’s help).

 

Bull Run Occoquan Trail – Bull Run Regional Park to Hemlock Overlook

Bull Run Occoquan Trail - Henry, Sagan, Vicky (By Ryan Somma)
In December, Ryan started playing Skyrim. The scenery in that game is amazing and Ryan found all the walking in the game made him want to get out and do a real hike. So on December 3rd, our family took on a one way trip along the Bull Run Occoquan Trail. We traveled 7.5 miles from Bull Run Regional Park to Hemlock Overlook. This section may not have been as scenic as Skyrim, but it was still gorgeous in its own right. You walk along the water, get to see some rapids, pass by a memorial pet rock pile and see some neat trees along the way. This outing was Sagan’s longest hike to date (post birth).

January 1, 2012 at 11:02 am 2 comments

Brooklyn Botanic Garden – Bonsai Virginia Creeper

Although it is often mistaken for poison ivy, I am a steadfast fan of Virginia Creeper and I’ve seen a lot of it in my day.  I’ve seen it in my yard, on the Appalachian Trail and on travels.  I’ve seen it creep and take over abandoned dams. I’ve seen it turn a gorgeous burgundy in the fall and I get to see Virginia Creeper any time I look at the State Seal or the State Flag of Virginia.

But at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden earlier this month, I got to see something new. Virginia Creeper…as a Bonsai Tree! : )

Brooklyn Botanical Gardens - Bonsai Display - Virginia Creeper with Shadows
Virginia Creeper Bonsai Tree

May 31, 2011 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

Brooklyn Botanic Garden – Plant Architecture Mini Safari

On April 30, Georgia at localecologist went on an Animal Architecture Safari in Brooklyn. That very same weekend, I was also in Brooklyn and admiring architecture. Only I was taking note of plants instead of animals!

One thing I loved about the Brooklyn Botanic Garden was how they used recognizable species in their structures.

Brooklyn Botanical Gardens - Gingko in Stonework
Gingko Leaves Carved into a Stone Column

I was particularly fond of the doorway to the Native Flora Garden. The metalwork on the door had some cameos by familiar wildflowers.

Brooklyn Botanical Gardens - Native Garden Door
The Native Flora Garden Door

The left panel of the door featured a Lady Slipper Orchid. They even included the grains in the leaves!

Brooklyn Botanic Garden - Native Plant Door Marked Up - Lady Slipper Orchid
Lady Slipper Orchid (Actual Lady Slipper Orchid Photo is by reznicek111)

Meanwhile, the right side of the door featured a Jack in the Pulpit.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden - Native Plant Door Marked Up - Jack in the Pulpit
Jack in the Pulpit! (Actual Jack in the Pulpit Photo is by pl1602)

What wonderful attention to detail they put into their designs!

More pictures of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden can be found on my Flickr site.

May 30, 2011 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

Brooklyn Botanic Garden – Science Celebrities

Part of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is a Celebrity Path. It’s a nice paved path the winds through nature that bears the names of famous people who were born in or had lived in Brooklyn.

My parents have a subscription to the National Enquirer and I have noticed that Ryan isn’t caught perusing its pages anywhere near as often as I. And so, it wasn’t surprising that on our short walk over the Celebrity Path, Ryan’s chin was a level ninety degrees whereas mine was angled downwards reading all the names.

That is, until I spied this name:

Brooklyn Botanical Gardens - Celebrity Walk - Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov!

And then this name:

Brooklyn Botanical Gardens - Celebrity Walk - Carl Sagan
Carl Sagan!

Suddenly Ryan had quite a bit more interest in the names he was walking over. : )

May 27, 2011 at 1:00 am 4 comments

Brooklyn Botanic Garden – Surprise Hanami

Sunday May 1st, Ryan and I were still in New York City and only a couple of miles from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. After breakfast, we decided to walk down and check it out.

Unbeknowst to us, the day coincided with the Sakura Matsuri Cherry Blossom Festival. In addition to hanami (the Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the beauty of flowers), the festival celebrated Japanese culture– traditional and contemporary. As a result, Ryan and I got to take in beautiful cherry blossoms, see a Taiko drum demonstration, watch attendees learn Go and see a number of people dressed up as Anime characters… and huge crowds.

Oh and for some reason Spiderman was in attendence as well. : )

Brooklyn Botanical Gardens - Man Playing
Man Enjoying A Vendor Display

Brooklyn Botanical Gardens - Go Game Demos
Go Demos

Brooklyn Botanical Gardens - Anime Characters with Child
Anime Characters with Child

Brooklyn Botanical Gardens - Cherry Esplanade
Crowds at the Cherry Esplanade

Brooklyn Botanical Gardens - Conservatory, Crowd and Tulips
Conservatory, Crowd and Tulips

Brooklyn Botanical Gardens - Ninja Baits Spiderman
Ninja Baits Spiderman into Fight

Brooklyn Botanical Gardens - Onlookers to Ninja vs Spiderman Fight
Onlookers of the Spiderman Fight

More pictures of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden can be found on my Flickr site. You can also check out the official BBG-Hanami Flickr group.

May 26, 2011 at 1:00 am 2 comments

The New York Botanical Garden – Blooms

Ryan and I visited The New York Botanical Gardens at a great time. We got to see a whole lot of blooms and subsequently got a whole lot of pictures. To keep it short and sweet, here’s a mosaic from Big Huge Lab’s Mosaic Maker. Enjoy!

The New York Botanical Garden - Mosiac of Blooms

1. Cherry Blooms, 2. Yellow Tulip, 3. White Star Flowers, 4. Pink Crabapple Blooms, 5. Wild Daffodils in Daffodil Valley, 6. Jade Vine (Strongylodon macrobotrys) Blooms, 7. Spotted Pink and Purple Blooms, 8. Snowdrift Crabapple Blooms, 9. Pieris, 10. Passion Flower (Passifolor x kewensis), 11. Spikes and Flowers in the African Desert Room, 12. Pink Pinecone (Close)

Thirsty for more New York City spring blooms? Check out Spring Blooms in Washington Square by localecologist.

May 25, 2011 at 1:00 am 2 comments

The New York Botanical Garden – Nature Taking Over

When you are inside the Conservatory at The New York Botanical Garden, you know that the environment you are taking in was architected by humans. Still, you get to catch glimpses of what nature wants to do if left to its own devices– take over. : )

New York Botanical Gardens - Vines Climb Pillar (Far)
Vines Climb Up a Pillar in the Conservatory

New York Botanical Gardens - Determined Vine on Stairwell
This Determined Vine is Squeezing Itself Into a Home in the Stairwell Handrail

More pictures of The New York Botanical Gardens can be found on my Flickr site.

May 24, 2011 at 1:00 am 2 comments

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