Maybe a word about where we actually live…

…“Back to the grind” of our everyday life is not nearly as depressing as it sounds. We travel a lot, but we also happen to have a house and a hometown and a bit of stability believe it or not! We live in Bethesda, Maryland, but we used to live in Annapolis until recently when Rick’s job required him to be in the D.C. office everyday rather than once a week. I found this blog a few weeks ago and for some reason I feel the need now to share the wealth, so to speak of my knowledge of my traveled regions, near and far.

If you’ve been to Bethesda, you’ve been to Westfield Montgomery, a cozy neighborhood mall with everything we need. But when we really want to go all out for some serious shopping, I take the girls to Arundel Mills Mall in Hanover or to Potomac Mills Outlet Mall in Prince William, Virginia which is not too far a drive.

I bring the girls to Baltimore three times a week for a homeschool “team meeting” and then, either with the group, or alone, we go to the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. We’ve got a family membership, so sometimes we go in just for brief visits or to participate in whatever programs they may have going on. I don’t know if you’ve read my other posts, but my girls are a little obsessed with zoos—we’re really been to zoos all over the country and they don’t ever tire of it. The National Aquarium in Baltimore also offers great programs throughout the year and is often one of our destinations during our Baltimore trips.

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Down and dirty in the California Beach Scene

Someone just posted about about going to Mission Beach in San Diego, which is, I grant you a pretty good beach, especially for families. But it is such a shame to even mention San Diego and not mention some of their other amazing beaches. Seriously—what about all us young hot dudes who want to get some action? We’re not as likely to stick to the run-of-the-mill family beaches now, are we? I’m the type of guy who pops over to the beach for a lunch hour or an early morning jog or an after hours romp in the sack. Beaches aren’t just for afternoon picnickers…. San Diego’s beaches aren’t exactly in my backyard (like Hermosa Beach in LA which I really do go to almost every day), but as you know (or as you will know if you keep reading what I write) I’m a California boy and I know all there is to know. So here are some more of my top beaches.

I’ve already mentioned (in a previous post) about Black’s Beach which is also in the area, but there’s also Pacific Beach, Ocean Beach, and Coronado Beach which MUST NOT BE MISSED! Especially Coronado Beach, kinda urban, kinda trippy. I guess this post wasn’t really about getting down and dirty. Though if I had a penny for every time I used these beaches as my gentlemen’s lair…

Adjusting in Atlanta

We’re been in Atlanta now for a few months, and thank God, everyone is adjusting quite well. I think it’s hardest for Alexandra. Being 12 and in middle school is hard enough, but having also to make new friends and try and “fit in” just makes it harder. But she’s such a sport. I always make an effort to spend one-on-one time with each of my kids once a week. Usually when the other two are at an after school activity, the third one and I will go to Southlake Mall, go get ice cream, see a movie, or just hang out at home—I’ve become a mastermind at planning schedules so that this can work out each week.

Anyways, Alexandra and I have really been talking a lot. Sometimes I want to cry (and sometimes I do) when it hits me how mature she’s getting. The other day we were at The Mall at Stonecrest, and she asked if we could check out some makeup—she got a little sheepish about it and it was so sweet. We picked out a lipstick together (something VERY CLOSE to lip color) and then got manicures together.

I’m actually really excited about their spring break coming up. We’ll be going back to Antioch (or nearby) to visit friends and family. I’m trying hard not to say “back home” because I want the kids to accept Atlanta as our new home. But I really do feel that way, that Tennessee is home. Besides seeing their friends and grandparents (my parents!) I know all three of them will love going to Hickory Hollow Mall, The Chattanooga Zoo at Warner Park and the Tennessee Aquarium. I’m just worried about leaving…I hope it’s not too soon to go back for a visit….

Honeymoon in Hawaii

While it was still freezing in NYC, my new, spectacular wife and I escaped for 2 weeks (spring break plus some) to Hawaii for our belated honeymoon. We’re back already but if I close my eyes and concentrate just a little, I think I can take you back there…

Warmth is showered upon me as I peel off the layers of clothes that had kept me warm in the airports and the flight. I squinted my eyes with pleasure and splashed suntan lotion on Carrie’s (now bare) shoulders. We got in a cab that brought us to the Sea Mountain Resort, but not without giving us a tour of a most picturesque landscape. Our windows were open and we could see, feel, and smell Hawaii bursting with life around us. The sight of the waving trees and glistening sands drenched in heat and ocean winds was delectable and whispered our names, beckoning us to partake in its splendor.

The majestic sands of the Punaluu Black Sand Beach won us over for our first day trip. We dragged our feet along the lava granules (sand) lining the beach. Inspired by the natural foot massage, I treated Carrie to a full body Punaluu massage (created and carried out by me) where I took the coarse rocks mixed with warm water and spread them out on her body. We saw turtles and went snorkeling. We went swimming in the freshwater pond at the far end of the beach and saw ducks. We ate a romantic picnic lunch and lazed out in the sun for hours.

I had just finished a unit on volcanoes for my third graders and had promised to take pictures of some volcanoes in Hawaii; and what better place to do so than the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The biggest and most active volcanoes dot this park. The environmental features of this island are absolutely phenomenal. The hike we went on brought us to dramatic vistas that were surrounded by the looming heights of volcanic displays.

Spencer Beach Park and Hapuna Beach State Park demanded a few days of our time, and we broke up beach time with eating at fantastic restaurants and participating in (kinda cheesy, but fun) luaus. We also went to Mauna Kea Beach, which honestly, I can’t remember anything specific about—maybe that’s the one that we camped out at?

The Hawaiian palate is impossible to describe—it’s like someone threw some colors on a canvas and then swirled them magically into a beach sunset. The air is imbued with passion and chaos—it is only through these great forces that this sort of beauty exists.

We took fantastic pictures, but I’m not sure if I know how to post to this site. I’ll see if I can figure it out…
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Boston’s Exciting Day Life

Boston is one of my favorite cities in the whole world. The bars and restaurants are top-notch and the shopping is fantastic. I went to college in Boston, so for me the life in Boston is the nightlife. So when I went with my kids a few weeks ago to visit my alma mater, I wasn’t quite sure where to take them. Did a little research and WOW — we ended up having a great time doing all the things Boston offers to its daytime travelers. We’re all animal people, so the Franklin Park Zoo and the New England Aquarium were sure stops for us. (I didn’t know at the time that 3 weeks later we’d be in San Diego for another business trip….but no one seemed to mind visiting so many animals in such a short time.)

Franklin Park is the historic home of the Franklin Park Zoo, a huge 72 acre expanse which you would never guess existed in the urban Boston area. Katie and Alison were so cute squealing with laughter when one of the Masai giraffes in the Kalahari Kingdom came nose to nose (well almost) with us in the observation area.

The New England Aquarium’s greatest perk perhaps was that it was SO easy to get to! It’s just off the T—you can either take the Blue Line, or just get off at Government Center and walk, which is what we did because it was absolutely gorgeous outside! We bought the ticket combo to the Aquarium and the IMAX Theater and spent all day with the penguins (so cute!), sharks, and dolphins. The IMAX show we saw was Sea Monsters 3D, which I found to be a little scary at times, but the kids found absolutely mesmerizing—they’re still talking about what it feels like to be underwater surrounded by monsters.

We took a lovely day trip to the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, where we island hopped and learned about early American history. We could not have been luckier with the weather, which was hot, but not the usual Boston humid, and we took advantage of it by splashing each other during our hikes, and jumping in for a swim at Lovells Island.

I definitely remember Natick Mall from my college days and couldn’t come up to Boston without hitting one of Boston’s greatest shopping havens—though really it’s in Natick, not Boston, but close enough!

We spent the rest of our New England trip in Nantucket where my husband’s cousins live, and pretty much hung out at Surfside Beach for three days straight, sailing, swimming, and lounging in the sun. And Rick’s conference was over by then, so even he was relaxed!

Looks like Boston’s family-friendly after all!

West Coast Beaches Trump East Coasts

Just read the post on the top 10 east coast beaches and thought I’d add my 2 cents about the fantastic California beaches—which, let’s face it, are much much better beaches than the ones in the east. I’ve been up and down the California coast a thousand times, so I know what I’m talking about.

Not to be too obvious or anything, but if you’ve never been to Venice Beach, you’re missing out on one of life’s great experiences. I mean, it’s definitely not one of your most serene and romantic beaches and it’s definitely a bit (or a lot) touristy, but it’s fun. People breathing fire and riding unicycles and doing all sorts of other bizarre performances line the promenade. And there is some solid street food. I guess as a local it’s not where I like spending my afternoons, but the occasional stop by Venice Beach is always a good reminder of how much vibrant life we’ve got at our fingertips in the amazing, colorful world. I think the first time I got really drunk was on Venice Beach.

Seal Beach might be my favorite, mainly because I remember going there with my family every Fall for as long as I can remember for the Seal Beach Sandcastle Festival. There’s something about the sand at Seal Beach which is perfect for molding and you can’t imagine the creations that these people come up with. I used to want to be a sandcastle construction man when I grew up. Ah, to be young again…)

Black’s Beach
— an unofficial nude beach. Need I say more? I’m a 24 year old single guy. Not to be a stereotype or anything…

Ok, moving right along. Baker Beach in San Francisco is pretty cool. I’ve gone fishing there a few times. Pismo Beach is definitely up there. It’s mentioned at the end of Big Lebowski…not that that makes it a good beach, but I’m just saying…

I practically lived at Avila Beach when I was in college (Cal Poly) so I can’t not put that on this list. Also good fishing here. And here’s a bit of trivia: the first motel, Motel Inn, ever is still alive and well on Monterey Street in San Luis Obispo.

Four more spots on my top 10 list and a thousand more beaches….A bit more obscure, but worth checking out is Stinson Beach. Good beach and good hiking. Jerry Garcia lived here, along with many other of the Merry Pranksters. Some good trivia. I guess if I had to choose three more, they’d be Doheny State Beach – Dana Point, Beacon’s Beach, and Bolsa Chica State Beach — all in Southern California, closer to where I grew up, and probably some of the most visited beaches (by me, at least).

I’m sorry—there’s no way these beaches compare to anything on the east coast. West Coast rocks!

Hello, Atlanta!

My job recently relocated me to Atlanta in the middle of the year and with three kids in elementary and middle school, the move was not easy. I made every effort to make the move smooth and fun for them, so I bought every guidebook there was on the state of Georgia and told them they were welcome to plan some trips. Every Sunday for the first couple of month of our move, I took the kids to the places of their choice. At the end of every daytrip, the kids and I rated the location on a scale of one to ten. I decided to write up all of our nines and tens so other people can reap the benefits of our organized ranking system!

First and foremost was the Georgia Aquarium. We moved from a small town in Tennessee where the local aquarium was a few fish tanks set up in a fourth grade classroom. The Georgia Aquarium blew us out of the water! That was a definite ten on our chart. Also up there was the Zoo Atlanta. We’d been on a family trip to the St. Louis Zoo before, so we knew great zoos—and now we had one in our very own city! The kids were thrilled about that. Also a raving ten was Stone Mountain Park, where we all piled into a glass-bottom boat and saw all the underwater life of some of the largest and deepest freshwater springs in the world. We happened to be there during annual Indian Pow Wow, so the kids got a historical and cultural look at the area as well. Not too far out of Atlanta is the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. The kids loved playing in the Chattahoochee River (and they loved trying to pronounce its name too!). We rented a canoe and saw the beautiful wildflowers as we paddled down stream. We packed our day with fun. Went hiking, had a picnic, and even went horseback riding—it was Justin’s first time and he did great!

Those were the tens. The nines really just include some malls that grabbed our attention as malls we’d like to return to. For us, going to the mall means spending an afternoon shopping, eating, playing at an arcade, eating some more, going to a movie, and taking advantage of other perks that the mall may have. Malls that fit our criteria included Mall of Georgia, Perimeter Mall, Gwinnett Place, Cumberland Mall, and Lenox Square Mall. The Mall of Georgia is number one mall, complete with a skatepark and a simulated NASCAR racing center—you can imagine how that went over with the kids! I personally vote for Cumberland Mall because of the Costco!

Lately the kids have been saying that Atlanta is not so bad after all…phew!