Friday, July 20, 2012

Aunt and Uncle on the Road

We made  trip to California to celebrate Peg's birthday and see all the little ones. It sure was a fun long weekend! It's amazing to watch our nephew and nieces play and to have time to catch up with cousins and siblings in person.

Buckets, squirties and scoops provide hours of entertainment at the water table. Watch out, Serin might lift that little leg and crawl in herself!

Josh gave Mark and Dominic a personalized home-brew tutorial Saturday. The equipment took up the back patio, but I was assured this hobby didn't necessarily require that much space to be successful. Here they are on their meat, bread and beer lunch break:

After mass on Sunday Katie, Lina and I treated Peg to her first-ever birthday pedicure. While we agree this should be a regular tradition, Peg wasn't quite sure what to expect (as you can see from the expression below). I think it turned out to be a refreshing treat. I'm not sure if she'll become a regular at the salon, but those toes did look festive by the kiddie pool during happy hour that evening!

Doing what the family does best: chatting!

We are constantly reminded what a blessing our growing family is. These visits show us how fulfilling and comforting it can be to have the unconditional love of immediate and extended family nearby. We rely on these memories and look forward to making many more in the years to come. 

Friday, July 06, 2012

Fourth of July Coney Island Style

You can take the D train from our house in the Bronx to the last stop in Brooklyn. The last stop just so happens to be Coney Island, so what better occasion to make this trip than for the Nathan's Famous hot dog eating contest on July 4?

We arrived with enough time to stake out our places for the women's contest. Check out the photo below of these competitors. The woman, Sonya Thomas (aka the Black Widow), on the far left is last year's champion. She won the contest then by eating 41 Nathan's Famous hot dogs and buns. There's 1:09 left on the clock and in this image she's already at 42. Turns out that 45-year-old, 100-pound woman can consume 45 ("One for every year I've been alive," she said) hot dogs in 10 minutes.

The organizers (i.e. ESPN) had about an hour and a half to kill between the men's and women's contests, so they distracted the audience with trampoline shows, basketball contests and rappers on stage.

At noon it was time for the men to scarf down their age. Unbelievably the winner of the men's contest, Joey Chestnut from San Jose, consumed 62 hot dogs and buns. Here he is with 4:10 left on the clock and 44 hot dogs in his stomach.

Here he is in a post-contest interview. He looks normal, but his stomach is bursting at the seams!

Dominic and I took a few minutes to take in the sights at Surf and Stillwell, then we walked the Luna Park boardwalk before returning to Nathan's for a taste at what all the fuss is about. Despite the warnings Dominic indulged.

He liked it, but agreed that one hot dog was plenty.

Since we had six hours to kill before the Macy's fireworks began I convinced Dominic to join me at the lower East side Tenement museum. It was a museum I had hoped to see for months and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. What better way to appreciate the blessings of being an American than by witnessing how immigrants survived in the 19th century?

It sure worked. I left that one-hour Hard Times tour more thankful than ever for being born to the family I was, in the place that I was, in the time that I was. For dinner we had Thai food at a restaurant called Sticky Rice... just a part of the melting pot day it had been.

We watched the fireworks display and listened to the soundtrack on the radio. It was great day to remind us how good it is to be born in the U.S.A!

Sunday, July 01, 2012

THE Ride 'Round Manhattan

Ever since last fall's Tip to Tip Fun Run I've wanted to do one more full-length Manhattan adventure. We'll call it The Ride 'Round Manhattan. Never mind that today's weather included a heat advisory, when we get the biking itch you've just gotta ride! The ride was to leave our apartment in Bedford Park to venture to, and around, the entire Island. Dominic estimated it would be about 32 miles. We were in no rush, so after throwing a couple bottles of water and books in my basket we set off to Spuyten Duyvil Bridge

Who knew we lived so close to the upper tip of the Island! When I did the Tip-to-Tip run it took me an hour by train to get to 218th where the 1 train leaves you on the edge of the island. It's only three miles and 15 minutes by bike from our house. Getting to Manhattan was no problem at all. Getting on that first Hudson River parkway was slightly more difficult. Here's Dominic checking out the map of the more than 700 miles of on-street bike lanes and park space for bicycling.

This is the Little Red Lighthouse at Jeffrey's Hook. Pretty quickly you drop down to the river parkway and can ride for miles from Harlem down to the Chelsea Pier

By 10:30 a.m. we had made it to Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan. It was heating and we were ready for a little rest, so after saying hello to Lady Liberty we stopped under the pier to get out of the sun, admire a below-bridge taco truck street festival, and munch on some fruit leathers.

As we made our way back up the East River all the major landmarks started popping up. To Dom's left here is the Empire State Building.

I have the best husband in the world. Since the ride was a birthday activity to celebrate my new year he found the perfect spot around 97th where we could pick up a four-course picnic lunch for Central Park. Fancy!

Central Park has it's own, relatively small, Conservatory Garden between 104th and 106th. We took our lunches to this location where we knew we could find a quiet, shady respite from the heat. We unpacked our salads, sandwiches, rice pudding, chips and jelly belly snack packs. I thought we were alone - except a gathering wedding party - until we looked up in the terrace... We had guests!

 The bridal party and guests. We felt so bad for those poor groomsmen in suits. Hot, hot hot!

As you ride along this side at Harlem you have to cut into the city to ride on the streets for a bit. I didn't mind because it was a pretty quiet Sunday afternoon, but we had to put a little more attention into the ride than on the West side where you have a dedicated bike path.

Apparently New Yorkers who bike or walk to routine destinations report better overall health. Believe it or not, regular physical activity like biking burns calories, improves mood and makes people healthier.

 None of this mattered to Dominic as we approached the house. We were hot and tired.

The Ride 'Round Manhattan from door-to-door was 34.5 miles. Totally worth the effort - despite the heat! We came home, took cold showers and watched When Harry Met Sally (neither of us had seen it). Happy July! is an online resource guide to free or low-cost fitness opportunities like boxing, fishing, hiking, horseback riding - that's right, horseback! - kayaking, soccer and more.

One site I wish we could take more advantage of but don't is Shape Up New York. The city offers free adult fitness classes taught by expert instructors at parks and other community sites.